Some of the lowest-income Americans would likely miss out on the $400 weekly unemployment payments President Donald Trump is seeking to create via an executive memorandum issued Saturday, according to the Washington Post, as serious questions remain about how the initiative would be funded.
The $400 a week checks would only be available to individuals who are receiving at least $100 a week from their state’s unemployment program, meaning it would exclude many low earners, including self-employed individuals and workers who rely on tips.
A White House spokesman told The Washington Post the threshold was set as a way to prevent fraud and to make sure those getting the federal checks are already qualified for an unemployment program.
Another hurdle is that Trump’s memorandum requires states to come up with $100 of the $400 weekly payment, and not only is it unclear how many states have the money to do so, states would be required to set up a completely new system to deliver the aid since Congress has not authorized an extension of the $600 a week federal unemployment payments Trump’s action is meant to replace, Michelle Evermore, an unemployment expert at the National Employment Law Project, told CNN, and building such a program could take months, she said.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
There’s a massive amount of uncertainty over the program, both in terms of legality and funding. Trump has faced serious criticism over whether his move to bypass Congress is constitutional, and it’s not clear how cash-strapped states that are dealing with historic revenue drops would be able to fund their portion of the payments.
“It’s utter nonsense to suggest that the Trump administration is somehow targeting poor people,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, told The Washington Post. “The president is acting where the Democrats are putting people’s futures at risk.”
Trump authorized the payments, which are supposed to go through the end of the year, as part of three memoranda and an executive order he signed Saturday to provide economic assistance after Republicans and Democrats in Congress ground to a deadlock in negotiations over a new stimulus package. The issue of federal unemployment payments were one of the big holdups. Americans have been without the $600 a week payments since the end of July, when the program set up by the $2 trillion CARES Act expired.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Democrats seem likely to challenge the legality of Trump’s executive actions in court.
10.2% — That’s the current U.S. unemployment rate, according to the Labor Department. The unemployment rate in February was at 3.5%.