By Peter White

 NASHVILLE, TN —After throwing Washington into chaos for several days by refusing to sign a $900 billion stimulus package, President Trump abruptly signed the deal on Sunday from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. 

Had he not done so, the federal government would have shut down Tuesday, December 29.  The stimulus package will fund government operations through September 2021. 

Trump wanted Congress to make a number of changes, including doubling one-time $600 payments to most Americans, something his own party opposed, but in the end he signed the package and then demanded Congress cut a number of things he didn’t like in the deal. As a lame duck president, Trump is unlikely to get what he wants.

Trump’s delay has cost 14 million unemployed Americans at least a week of benefits that expired Dec. 26. He signed the bill Dec. 27 and they may never collect for the last week in 2020.

As it is, they will have to wait several weeks before states can start new payments given the archaic nature of their computer systems, according to the Washington Post.

Tens of thousands of Tennesseans were denied unemployment benefits after the Cares Act was passed in March because the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s online application software couldn’t handle the volume. Half a million Tennessee workers filed for unemployment between March 15 and May 11, 2020. 

Tennessee’s labor department made some adjustments, increasing from a pre-pandemic average of about 2500 claims to 320,000 weekly claims by June 2020. But it didn’t change the requirements enough to get money into the hands of people who desperately needed it as Congress intended by passing the $2.1 trillion CARES Act in March. By June, thousands of laid-off Tennesseans were still not getting $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits that expired in July. (see  Since March Unemployment Office Failed to Meet Federal Standard, Tennessee Tribune, June 29, 2020)

 Stimulus checks, jobless benefits, aid for businesses, schools and childcare, and money for COVID-19 vaccine distribution are in the $900 billion stimulus package. 

Help to state and local governments and liability protections for companies that have coronavirus outbreaks are not in the bill. Also, the $600 weekly federal jobless benefits were reduced to $300 per week until March 14, 2021, and does not include hazard pay for essential workers nor does it extend stimulus check to adult dependents.   

Here are some numbers:

$284 billion for Paycheck Protection Program loans

$15 billion for the entertainment industry

$25 billion in emergency assistance to renters (extends eviction moratorium to January 31, 2021)

$20 billion for purchase of coronavirus vaccines

$22.7 billion for colleges and universities

$54.3 billion for K-12 schools

$10 billion for child-care assistance

$45 billion for transportation ($16 billion for airlines,

$10 billion for highways, $14 billion for transit, $2 billion for intercity buses, $1 billion for Amtrak

$13 billion for nutrition assistance, $13 billion for agricultural assistance, $300 million for the fishing industry, $1.4 billion for Trump’s border wall