Donald Trump signs executive orders for USA coronavirus relief, extending unemployment benefits

Ruben Fields
August 10, 2020

Payroll tax cut may be permanent.

Democrats had wanted to extend the $600 weekly additional benefits that were first approved in March and that expired last month, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and others said the plan not only didn't go far enough but had breached congressional spending authority.

(L) Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and (R) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) walk to speak to reporters after meeting with White house officials at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on August 7, 2020. "There is still a lot of things we need to do and that we've agreed on", he said.

"Unilaterally eliminating the payroll tax and ignoring Congress's power of the purse on funding unemployment insurance will do nothing to help Americans recover", Representative Maxine Waters, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, said in a statement.

Some Republicans in Congress do not wish to spend any more, and almost half of Republican senators say they would oppose any new relief bill at all.

The executive action came after congressional leaders failed to reach a deal on unemployment benefits and a new stimulus package in general.

The New York State Department of Labor said Monday it is assessing Trump's order and asked that New Yorkers not call the department to ask about the extra benefits. Republicans and the White House rejected the proposal.

Democratic leaders also called for a return to negotiations, saying the president's measures fall short.

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"They have lost revenue from shelter-in-place and the fact that people are not being able to go out and spend money, inject demand into the economy, as they would normally", she said.

"We'll deal with the deficit when we get the economy back to where it was before", he added.

Because the president can't cut taxes on his own, Trump is simply delaying the due date for the payroll tax, which is paid jointly by employers and employees. And they could be on the hook for taxes that weren't withheld from the paychecks of employees who later leave.

Andrew Rudalevige, chair of the Department of Government and Legal Studies at Bowdoin College, told NPR on Saturday that the unemployment benefits measure is particularly controversial because it is "really using appropriated funds by Congress in ways that Congress might not have intended".

The administration says that about $81 billion has yet to be spent and could be provided to unemployed Americans, though some states have already committed their funds for health care, distance learning and housing assistance. "And many states, because they have to chip in $100 and they don't have money, won't do it".

Mr. Trump also said that Americans with federally held student loans would be able to suspend monthly payments through December 31, and that the government would waive interest on the loans during that period.

Around one in five American renters - between 19 million and 23 million people - are at risk of eviction by the end of September, according to an analysis by the Aspen Institute.

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