UPDATED, with additional Trump comments: Laid off and furloughed workers in entertainment face even more uncertainty over unemployment benefits, as negotiations on Capitol Hill stalled over a massive new coronavirus relief package.
On Twitter, Donald Trump vowed to go a “different way,” by passing Congress via an executive order to extend enhanced unemployment benefits and issue a temporary moratorium on evictions.
But it’s unclear on what legal grounds he can do so or at what amount the jobless benefit would be. Trump has favored a COVID-19 benefit less than the extra $600-per-week that was provided through the end of July.
At a press conference later on Friday, Trump also said that he is considering an executive order that would defer payroll tax and student loan payments. The executive orders, he said, “could be by the end of the week. It is being drawn by the lawyers right now.”
The dispute between the White House and top Democrats is over more than just unemployment benefits, but the magnitude of the COVID-19 relief package itself.
After a meeting on Friday with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of Staff Mark Meadows, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that she told them, “Come back when you are ready to give a higher number.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that Mnuchin and Meadows rejected their proposal — that Democrats reduce the size of their proposal, in which they would try to “meet in the middle” on the cost of a package around $2 trillion to $2.4 trillion.
“They said that the couldn’t go above their existing $1 trillion, and that was disappointing,” Schumer said.
He said that “with that number, we can’t meet the needs of workers, of teachers, of schools, of all these things.”
After the meeting, Mnuchin and Meadows recommended that Trump sign executive orders to address the crisis.
Trump tweeted that “Pelosi and Schumer only interested in Bailout Money for poorly run Democrat cities and states. Nothing to do with China Virus! Want one trillion dollars. No interest. We are going a different way!”
Pelosi and Schumer have argued that much more is needed to help state and local governments make up for budget shortfalls, forcing them to layoff teachers, law enforcement personnel and other government workers.
Industry groups have been pushing for an extension of the benefits, along with an array of other measures to boost hard hit sectors of the industry. Theater owners and live event venues want an expanded loan program to make up for losses, while broadcasters and local media outlets are lobbying for changes to widen the scope of stations and newspapers eligible to receive relief. But not much will happen unless an agreement is reached on an overall relief package.
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