By Erin Hassanzadeh

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — At the end of last month, countless Americans stopped receiving federal unemployment benefit payments of $600 per week.

With negotiations to reinstate federal help stalled, President Donald Trump signed an executive order Saturday giving unemployed Americans an extra $400 per week.

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“Am I going to wake up to my power being off the next day? Am I going to wake up to no hot water because they shut my gas off?” said Charnell Flow, who used to work two jobs.

She was a manager at McDonalds and worked the kitchen at a Casey’s.

“My dad had me stacking hay when I was seven years old ya know,” Flow said. “I’ve worked for pretty much 31 years.”

But when a respiratory condition forced her to leave her McDonald’s job and go on medical leave from the others, she found herself in a tough spot — unable to pay her bills as she waited for her unemployment application to process.

“I had no money coming in, my parents were helping me out as much as I could they would send me the $50 to get some groceries,” Flow said. “A lot of anxiety, a lot of sleepless nights.”

The $600 weekly federal unemployment benefits on top of Flow’s state benefits turned things around.

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“It’s just a relief knowing you can pay your bills,” Flow said.

After the additional federal assistance ran out last month, President Donald Trump announced an executive order Saturday calling for a $400 dollar per week federal top-off for unemployment benefits.

While it’s unclear when those payments would kick in, the news is a relief to Flow — someone who initially agreed with the thought that federal top-off payments were too generous.

“I got sick and I was like ‘oh my god I need that money because I won’t make it without it,’” Flow said. “Until you’re in that predicament, you don’t know how it feels to be us.”

The Minnesota DFL released a statement Saturday criticizing the decision to cut the unemployment benefit from $600 to $400.

The party says the administration’s “incompetent response to COVID-19 has created an economic crisis and this will only make it worse.”

President Trump also signed executive orders providing eviction protections, a temporary payroll tax cut, and student loan deferments.

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There could be legal challenges in the days ahead, as tax and spending measures typically require Congressional action.

Erin Hassanzadeh