Among the executive orders signed by President Trump over the weekend was one that seemed to hold promise for easing the financial burden crushing tens of millions of jobless Americans.
The order called for replacing the now-lapsed $600 per week federal supplemental unemployment insurance, supported by Democrats, with a plan worth $400 per week — a seeming split-the-difference number, since Republicans wanted it to be just $200.
But there’s a catch, and a big one: Trump wants the individual states to foot a quarter of the total bill — $100 for every $300 provided by the U.S. Treasury.
And that turns the whole proposal into a fantasy — because few, if any, state governments can come up with that kind of money.
New York’s Democratic governor, Andrew Cuomo, called Trump’s plan “laughable” and “an impossibility,” noting that it would cost his state $4 billion it does not have.
Across the country, the New York Times reports, “even Republican governors said the order could strain their budgets and worried it would take weeks for tens of millions of unemployed Americans to begin seeing the benefit.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) says his state has “no money in the piggy bank” to support Trump’s plan.
There’s also deep skepticism among members of Congress, in both parties — not only about unemployment benefits, but also about the president’s other orders.
Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) “is among both Republicans and Democrats questioning the legality of Trump’s weekend executive orders, which also include aid for renters, federal student loan relief and payroll tax deferrals,” reports Salt Lake City’s Deseret News.
“Maine Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said Trump’s action flies in the face of what states and localities have been pushing for — substantial budget relief,” NBC News reports.
“Asking states now to take on additional expenses is unresponsive to these needs and threatens important programs and services,” Mills said.
Noting that many states are facing budget crunches caused by the pandemic, the AP says the president was asked at a weekend news conference how many governors had signed on to his unemployment benefit plan.
“If they don’t, they don’t,” Trump said, with a verbal shrug. “That’s up to them.”