President Donald Trump's controversial executive order to provide a temporary unemployment enhancement is eerily familiar to House of Cards fans. Trump's order would pull funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA) to pay for his program right in the midst of hurricane season. The fictional President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) tried a similar maneuver in Season 3 of House of Cards, and it did not go over well.
Trump's executive order would provide a $400 per week unemployment bonus to eligible Americans for four weeks. States would be responsible for delivering 25 percent of that funding, while the rest would come from the Department of Homeland Security's Disaster Relief Fund. That fund contains $70 billion, which is usually used for FEMA responses to natural disasters. Trump's executive order could cut it down to $25 billion.
Just a reminder that Trump's idea of funding unemployment through FEMA funds is basically identical to the plot of a House of Cards episode in season three.
I am 100% certain they got the idea for this from the TV show. There is zero chance they didn't. pic.twitter.com/6GyhGQfFZg— Samantha Pritchard (@thucydiplease) August 7, 2020
"To provide financial assistance for the needs of those who have lost employment as a result of the pandemic, I am directing up to $44 billion from the DRF at the statutorily mandated 75 percent Federal cost share be made available for lost wages assistance to eligible claimants, to supplement State expenditures in providing these payments," the order reads. "At least $25 billion of total DRF balances will be set aside to support ongoing disaster response and recovery efforts and potential 2020 major disaster costs."
Critics have questioned the legality and efficacy of this order, but many have also been distracted by another aspect of it: its striking similarity to a House of Cards plotline. In Season 3 of the Netflix original series, Underwood introduces a new jobs program called America Works — or AmWorks — to take the unemployment rate in the U.S. down to zero. Underwood declared an official State of Emergency due to the unemployment rate in Washington, D.C., allowing his administration to draw on FEMA funds to pay for the program.
In the show, Underwood's political opponents rushed to respond with their own legislation, but that wasn't what ended his scheme. Hurricane Faith hit the U.S. hard, and FEMA was powerless to respond in the series, turning public opinion against AmWorks. Underwood then signed an agreement to replenish the funding he had drawn and stopped taking it for his jobs program.
Many critics are fearful that events could be similar — or perhaps even worse — as Trump tries to put his order into action. The 2020 hurricane season has already been rough, and it is just getting started. Some are also questioning whether Trump or someone in his administration might have seen House of Cards and taken inspiration from it for this bold new move.