White House: Did We Say $400 In Emergency Unemployment? About That!
With a bonus if you volunteer to become Soylent Green.
After governors from both parties complained Donald Trump's maybe-legal (or not!) executive order to extend emergency unemployment benefits looked unworkable, the White House issued a "clarification" yesterday: cash-starved states won't have to kick in any funding to get the emergency funds, and also the amount will be $300 a week, not the $400 that Trump had said it would be when he announced the order Saturday. The CARES Act's emergency unemployment had been $600 a week, but those benefits expired at the end of July because Republicans wouldn't even think of discussing a renewal —among themselves , and they never did come to an agreement, among themselves! — until a few days before the expiration date.
This is where we remind you all, again , that Democrats in the House passed a stimulus package in MAY that fully funded an extension of the emergency benefits until January 2021. Republicans refused to act for two months because they wanted to see if the economy came roaring back, and besides, they'd already shoveled money to their biggest donors.
At the moment, there doesn't seem to be any hope of a new stimulus bill. Democrats said before talks collapsed last week that they would be willing to accept a trillion dollars of cuts to the $3 trillion package from May, but the White House accused Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi of refusing to negotiate. The Washington Post reports that one of the White House's two lead negotiators, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, "left Washington this week for an unspecified amount of time." Maybe Steven Mnuchin will be available to take a message. As for congressional Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dropped out of the discussions altogether, saying he'd support any package the White House came up with.
Sorry, 30 million Americans getting unemployment, hope you don't need to pay rent or anything!
Trump's plan, such as it is, would shift some $44 billion in funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund — at the height of hurricane season, no worries — to cover about five weeks of the enhanced unemployment benefits at the lower, $300 per week rate. The White House initially said that in order to qualify for the benefits at all, states would have to fund a quarter of what was originally announced as a $400 per week benefit. Maybe the states could move around some money from their own unused stimmy funds from the CARES Act, yeah, try that. Trump said Saturday,
$400. Okay? So, that's generous, but we want to take care of our people. [...] Under this plan, states will be able to offer greater benefits if they so choose, and the federal government will cover 75 percent of the cost. So we're all set up. It's $400 per week.
But of course, just like every other aspect of its pandemic response going back to the start, the administration was just making shit up as it went along. Yesterday, Trump's top economic adviser Larry Kudlow explained that
adjustments had been made to that plan and that no new money is required from the states for their residents to qualify for the $300.
"We modified slightly the mechanics of the deal," Kudlow told Fox News.
He might have added, "Pray we do not alter it further." Or if you prefer a more literary bad guy, we won't be at all surprised if Fox News insists we should all thank Big Brother for increasing the payments, first from $600 to $400, and then to $300.
Once the reduced Trumpenbonus runs out in five weeks, states that wanted to continue enhanced benefits would have to find the money themselves unless an actual bill is passed by Congress.
The Post reports that the White House is kicking around other ways to do a little bit of stimmy without involving Congress, because what is a "constitutional republic" anyway? Two "people aware of internal conversations" said administration officials are considering finding other funds to repurpose for stimulus, on the off chance that they can get away with it. But gosh, it's almost as if complete dysfunction in the executive branch isn't going over so well:
The president's favorite economic indicator — the stock market — began to slide Tuesday amid growing evidence that an additional aid package was not on the way.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq, which had been trading near record territory, slid 186 points, or 1.7 percent.
"The White House's credibility is on the line here in terms of their ability to execute the stimulus they announced over the weekend. And the stock market is telling you here that whatever they've announced is not enough — more money is needed to keep the economy recovering, " said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank.
Okay, sure, but what about doing nothing at all and blaming the Democrats?
Or how about a tax cut for the rich?
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