The U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday morning that 4.4 million new unemployment claims were filed the prior week, bringing the total number filed throughout the coronavirus pandemic to more than 26 million.
The data comes as certain states and communities prepare to reopen businesses in accordance with federal guidelines issued by President Donald Trump and the White House coronavirus task force. The guidelines, split into three separate phases, rely heavily on public health data — all the way down to the state level. The three top medical experts on the task force — Drs. Deborah Birx, Anthony Fauci, and Robert Redfield — all approved of the plan prior to Trump’s recent announcement.
Yet, Trump criticized Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp at Wednesday’s White House briefing for opening businesses too quickly. Kemp made Georgia the first state in the nation to open a variety of non-essential businesses with close interpersonal contact, including nail salons, barbershops, and bowling alleys.
The president also signed an executive order Wednesday placing a 60-day pause on green card immigration to the U.S. The move was largely knocked by immigration hawks for allegedly not doing enough to protect American workers.
Congress is also preparing to send another round of funding for small business relief to the president’s desk to be signed into law. The Senate passed the bill by unanimous voice vote earlier this week and the House is expected to vote on it Thursday. (RELATED: Congress, White House Reach Agreement On Latest Coronavirus Bill)
The new piece of legislation, worth nearly half a trillion, adds more than $310 billion to the Small Business Administration’s Payment Protection Program (PPP) and $60 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). Companies that receive relief from either program must keep staff on payroll, as negotiated by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and congressional leaders.
Following the Senate vote, Mnuchin stressed the president’s desire for a massive infrastructure bill to be included in “Phase 4” of the coronavirus stimulus plan, a move that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer both support. Republican leadership, however, urged against rushing into another round of spending.
This is a developing story and will be updated with new information as it becomes available.