WASHINGTON (AP) – With aid expiring, the White House offered a short-term extension of a $600 weekly unemployment benefit that has helped keep families and the economy afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Democrats rejected it, saying President Donald Trump’s team failed to grasp the severity of the crisis.
Democratic leaders panned the idea in late-night talks at the Capitol, opting to keep the pressure on for a more sweeping bill that would deliver aid to state and local governments, help for the poor and funding for schools and colleges to address the pandemic. Without action, the benefit runs out today.
“They want to do one small thing that won’t solve the problem,” said top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer after meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
“We have to have a bill, but they just don’t realize how big it has to be,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Republicans have been fighting to trim back the $600 jobless benefit in the next coronavirus package, but their resolve weakened with the looming expiration of the popular benefit – and as Trump indicated that he supports keeping the full $600 benefit for now.
“We want a temporary extension of enhanced unemployment benefits,” Trump said at the White House. “This will provide a critical bridge for Americans who lost their jobs to the pandemic through no fault of their own.”
He added: “It has to be substantial.”
During the two-hour meeting at the Capitol, Trump’s team offered a week-long extension. But Democrats have so far rejected a piecemeal approach, saying the next relief bill needs to move as a complete package. The sides agreed to talk again today and into the weekend.