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Enhanced unemployment benefits set to lapse without Trump’s signature on relief bill

Expanded unemployment benefits for as many as 14 million Americans were set to expire Saturday, Reuters reports, as President Trump continues to hold off on signing Congress’ $900 billion COVID-19 pandemic relief bill.

The enhanced jobless benefits that were included in the CARES Act earlier this year end Dec. 26, so even if Trump changes course and puts pen to paper later in the day, a temporary lapse in payments is inevitable since states will need time to reprogram to account for the new law, which includes an extra $300 per week on top of the usual state unemployment benefit. However, in that scenario, The New York Times reports, unemployed workers would still be able to claim the benefits.

But any further delay beyond Saturday could prove more costly because states cannot pay out benefits for weeks that begin before the bill is signed, the Times notes. The payments wouldn’t be able to restart until January, but the March expiration date remains the same, trimming the extension from 11 weeks to 10. Of course, Trump could simply sit on the bill until he leaves office next month, forcing Congress to reintroduce and vote on the package again.

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Trump surprised lawmakers by threatening to veto the new relief bill, though his actual intentions remain unclear. As Reuters notes, he has complained the package designates too much money for cultural projects and foreign aid, and he considers the $600 stimulus checks to be too small. On Friday, the president again called for $2,000 checks, a figure to which GOP lawmakers appear resistant. Read more at Reuters and The New York Times.