Trump falsely blames Democrats for slow unemployment payments

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People have encountered difficulties applying for unemployment benefits because state systems are overloaded by the sheer number of workers filing claims.

Donald Trump on Monday blamed Democrats for the difficulty many Americans have had applying for and receiving unemployment benefits in the wake of layoffs connected with the coronavirus pandemic, claiming he would have gotten the payments out faster if the states had not been involved in the process.

"Blame the Democrats for any 'lateness' in your Enhanced Unemployment Insurance. I wanted the money to be paid directly, they insisted it be paid by states for distribution. I told them this would happen, especially with many states which have old computers," Trump tweeted.

Trump's claim that Democrats "insisted" states distribute unemployment benefits betrays his lack of understanding of how unemployment insurance works.

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The payment of unemployment benefits is coordinated by individual states, which have their own systems for calculating how much money a worker receives after being laid off. The Department of Labor's own website directs those seeking unemployment insurance to contact their states' unemployment programs.

"The basic unemployment insurance program is run by the states, although the U.S. Department of Labor oversees the system," the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains. "States provide most of the funding and pay for the actual benefits provided to workers; the federal government pays only the administrative costs."

Additionally, people have encountered difficulties applying for unemployment benefits because state systems are overloaded by the sheer number of workers filing claims. A total of about 26.5 million people have applied for unemployment insurance since states started implementing social distancing measures in response to the novel coronavirus.

Some states have had a hard time handling the influx of unemployment claims due to efforts by GOP governors and state lawmakers to make applying for benefits more difficult.

In Florida, for example, GOP Sen. Rick Scott purposely made it harder for Floridians to apply for unemployment insurance when he served as governor from 2011 through 2019, Politico reported, in order to reduce the unemployment taxes that employers in the state had to pay.

However, Republicans in Florida now admit that Scott's system is hurting Floridians and could cause electoral problems for GOP candidates in the state in November.

"It’s a shit sandwich, and it was designed that way by Scott," an adviser to current Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis told Politico. "It wasn’t about saving money. It was about making it harder for people to get benefits or keep benefits so that the unemployment numbers were low to give the governor something to brag about."

Meanwhile, while Trump claims Democrats wanted to hamper unemployment payouts to Americans, it was Senate Republicans who fought to make those payments less generous.

All but two GOP senators voted to lower the amount of money the federal government would provide to help people who lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those voting against the payments claimed that they were too generous and would discourage Americans from working.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.