On Sunday night, President Donald Trump signed legislation for $900 billion in COVID relief funding along with $1.4 trillion in government spending, which averted a government shutdown that was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday.
The COVID relief bill—which was approved by both the House and Senate on Dec. 21, but Trump refused to sign it for various reasons—will provide most Americans with $600 in direct payments, but since $600 is barely enough to make a dent in the stacks of bills, back rent and general cost of living for most people, Trump said that the House will vote Monday on increasing direct payments to $2,000 for adults making up to $75,000 per year and children.
CBS News reports that the bill also extends unemployment benefits and the moratorium on evictions for renters—which was set to expire on Dec. 31—by one month.
“I am signing this bill to restore unemployment benefits, stop evictions, provide rental assistance, add money for PPP, return our airline workers back to work, add substantially more money for vaccine distribution, and much more,” Trump said in a statement.
According to CBS, Trump was expected to sign the bill last week, but instead, he released a surprise statement saying he wouldn’t sign it until serious changes were made.
“I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000, or $4,000 dollars for a couple,” Trump said. “I’m also asking Congress to immediately get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation and to send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a COVID relief package.” House Republicans initially blocked Democrats’ attempt at implementing the payment increase to $2,000 last Thursday.
According to Axios, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement that the bill finally being signed is “welcome news for the fourteen million Americans who just lost the lifeline of unemployment benefits on Christmas weekend, and for the millions more struggling to stay afloat during this historic pandemic and economic crisis.”
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted, “The House will pass a bill to give Americans $2,000 checks. Then I will move to pass it in the Senate. No Democrats will object. Will Senate Republicans?”
In case you’re starting to think you have entered some kind of bizarro world where Trump is the decent Republican in the room, y’all’s almost-ex-president couldn’t get through his Sunday statement without referring to COVID-19 as the “China virus,” and blaming business shutdowns due to the pandemic on “harsh actions by Democrat-run states.”
Part of the negotiations for Trump’s signing of the bill included a promise that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—a law that shields internet companies from liability for what is posted on their websites by them or third parties—“will be reviewed and either be terminated or substantially reformed,” Trump said in his statement.
And of course, Trump also managed to negotiate further investigations into his imaginary widespread voter fraud. Trump said that, along with the House voting to increase the amount of the direct relief payments, the “Senate will start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000, repeals Section 230, and starts an investigation into voter fraud.”
It’s also worth mentioning that if Trump had agreed to sign the bill when it was approved by Congress—which happened after negotiations that Trump didn’t participate in, according to CNN—it would have been done before unemployment benefits for millions of Americans had lapsed.
However, because Trump did not sign the bill on Saturday, those in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs will likely not receive a payment for the final week of the year. And the $300 federal enhancement may only last 10 weeks instead of 11 weeks for most folks. That’s because states can’t provide benefits for weeks that start before programs are authorized, but the legislation calls for the extra payments to end on March 14.