Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies during a House Financial Services Committee hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. on December 2, 2020.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies during a House Financial Services Committee hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. on December 2, 2020. (Photo: Greg Nash/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

'This Is Atrocious': Trump White House Proposes Covid Relief Plan With $0 Weekly Unemployment Boost

"The president's proposal starts by cutting the unemployment insurance proposal being discussed by bipartisan members of the House and Senate. That is unacceptable."

Jake Johnson

The Trump White House late Tuesday tossed into the middle of ongoing coronavirus relief negotiations a $916 billion proposal that includes one-time $600 stimulus payments in the place of a weekly boost to federal unemployment benefits, a trade-off that Democratic lawmakers and economic analysts immediately rejected as unconscionable.

Offered as Democratic and Republican negotiators are racing to strike a relief deal before year's end, the White House plan would provide $40 billion for an extension of federal unemployment programs set to expire on December 26—but no increase in weekly benefits, despite the dire state of the economy.

"We gave the biggest help to those who needed it. The Republicans would send one $600 check and that's it. This is atrocious."
—Rep. Don Beyer

The Trump administration's unemployment insurance plan, put forth by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, falls well short of a bipartisan framework that calls for $180 billion in funding to boost unemployment benefits by $300 per week through March.

"The president's proposal starts by cutting the unemployment insurance proposal being discussed by bipartisan members of the House and Senate from $180 billion to $40 billion," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement. "That is unacceptable."

As a substitute for the lack of a weekly unemployment boost, the White House proposed a round of direct stimulus payments amounting to $600 per adult and $600 per child.

By contrast, the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that Congress approved in March sent one-time payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child to most U.S. households, on top of a $600-per-week unemployment supplement that proved remarkably successful until Republicans allowed it to lapse at the end of July.

"We gave the biggest help to those who needed it," Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said of the CARES Act. "The Republicans would send one $600 check and that's it. This is atrocious."

Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, noted that "unemployed workers are going thousands in dollars in debt on paltry benefits."

"Stimulus checks are not a substitute," said Stettner, a sentiment echoed by other analysts.

With hiring slowing sharply as coronavirus infections rise nationwide, economists have warned that failure to approve a weekly unemployment boost would heighten the misery already being felt by tens of millions of people across the U.S. According to recent data, around 20 million Americans are currently receiving some form of unemployment insurance, 26 million are struggling to afford enough food, and 40 million could face eviction in the near future.

"The expiration of vital pandemic unemployment insurance (UI) benefits on December 26 will leave 12 million workers without a safety net, and over four million others will have already exhausted their benefits by this cutoff," Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute, wrote in a blog post last week. "This spells trouble not only for workers and their families who are desperately trying to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table—especially with the eviction moratorium also set to expire on December 31—but also for the recovery itself."

"The longer Congress waits to act, the more permanent damage will be done to American families and the overall economy."
—Dr. Mark Paul, Dr. Adam Hersh

In addition to being dramatically less ambitious than the CARES Act, the White House's new proposal and the bipartisan plan embraced as a starting point by Democratic leaders are both a far cry from the kind of bold stimulus that experts say is needed to prevent a prolonged recession and ensure a just recovery.

A paper (pdf) authored by economists Dr. Mark Paul and Dr. Adam Hersh and released Tuesday by the Groundwork Collaborative estimates that "Congress needs to provide economic relief of between $3-4.5 trillion in the short-term in order to get American families and businesses working at their full potential."

"This would include continuing to expand eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits, renewing the $600 weekly supplemental benefits, providing fiscal aid to offset budgetary pressures on state, local, and tribal governments, renewal and better management of the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, and resources to expand Covid testing and tracing and health insurance subsidies, among other measures," the economists wrote.

"The longer Congress waits to act," they warned, "the more permanent damage will be done to American families and the overall economy, and the harder it will be for the U.S. economy to regain prosperity."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Bombshell': Israeli Spyware Used to Hack iPhones of US State Department Officials

Calling the Israel-based spyware maker NSO Group an "in-plain-sight national security threat," one expert warned that "a multi-agency investigation is immediately needed."

Jessica Corbett ·


US Progressive Caucus Hails Honduran Election as Chance for 'New Chapter' in Relations

"We encourage the Biden administration to use this opportunity to make a clean break with previous presidential administrations, which worked to ensure that the 2009 coup d'état succeeded."

Brett Wilkins ·


'The Facts of This Case Are So Egregious': Parents of Michigan School Shooter Charged in Killings

"There were a lot of things that could have been so simple to prevent," the Oakland County prosecutor said of the mother and father now being sought by law enforcement.

Kenny Stancil ·


Health Minister Says 'Highly Transmissible' Omicron Hitting Young Children Hard in South Africa

In South Africa's worst-affected province, children under the age of five now make up the second-largest group being admitted to hospitals.

Julia Conley ·


Groups Tell UN Food Agency to Ditch 'Toxic Alliance' With Pesticide Association

"This partnership with CropLife is in direct conflict with FAO's mandate as a U.N. institution to fulfill human rights to health, adequate food, clean water and environment, and safe working conditions."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo