COVID & Unemployment

Trump’s relief delay causes unemployment confusion

Mitchell Hartman Dec 28, 2020
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President Donald Trump has signed the COVID-19 relief bill after refusing to do so for several days. Above, the president and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House for Mar-a-Lago last week. Samuel Corum/AFP via Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

Trump’s relief delay causes unemployment confusion

Mitchell Hartman Dec 28, 2020
Heard on:
President Donald Trump has signed the COVID-19 relief bill after refusing to do so for several days. Above, the president and first lady Melania Trump depart the White House for Mar-a-Lago last week. Samuel Corum/AFP via Getty Images
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After several days of delay, President Donald Trump signed the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package. But the president’s delay has caused a lot of confusion about how some of the elements of that relief package will be distributed.

By signing this on Sunday, the president let two key federal pandemic unemployment benefit programs expire briefly, but the one-day gap is a big deal.

Jobless benefits are paid on a weekly basis. When Trump signed the relief bill Sunday, this week had already begun, and it looked like none of the benefits could be given for the week when the bill became law. 

Many thought that meant 20 million people would go without the federal jobless benefit extension, the benefit for gig workers and the $300-a-week top-up everyone gets through March. 

Ernie Tedeschi, an economist at Evercore ISI, said that could have meant $9 billion or $10 billion in lost relief just for the one week. But that didn’t happen.

The rumor mill was churning: Maybe some of the states could figure out some workarounds, at least to get the $300-a-week payments to apply right away.  

Then, Monday afternoon, the New Jersey Labor Department tweeted that according to the federal Labor Department, no one in the two federal pandemic programs will lose a week of benefits after all. The Labor Department didn’t answer Marketplace’s calls. 

Michele Evermore at the National Employment Law Project said even if states end up paying for this week, it still might take a couple weeks for all the state unemployment systems to get these federal benefits flowing again, since they did expire. But everyone should get all the back pay they’re entitled to, eventually.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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