Trump's executive actions follow fruitless stimulus negotiations

Following weeks of fruitless stimulus negotiations in Congress, President Donald Trump on Saturday signed four executive actions — an executive order and three memorandums — aimed at bringing a new round of COVID-19 pandemic aid to Americans, it was reported.

But the four executive actions — a $400 weekly extension of the federal unemployment supplement, a payroll tax deferral for Americans earning less than $100,000, extended student loan relief and a call for federal agency leaders to find funds to help stop evictions — may face some pushback from Democrats in Congress.

Legal challenges to President Trump’s executive actions are expected, and such challenges could delay any disbursement of funds to those who are deemed to be the most in need because of the pandemic’s effect on the economy, it was noted.

In the “Memorandum On Authorizing The Other Needs Assistance Program For Major Disaster Declarations Related To Coronavirus Disease 2019,” Trump authorized a $400 weekly federal supplement, a little less than the $600 weekly supplement to unemployment checks that expired at the end of July.

But as the memorandum states, individual states are required to cover $100 of that unemployment supplement, and states must also approve an agreement with the federal government so that unemployed persons may receive that supplement.

Trump reportedly backtracked on Sunday and said he would be willing to allow people to receive the supplement without states having to cover part of its cost, adding that the federal government could cover the entire supplement if state governors put in a request for it.

Some states’ unemployment benefits trust funds have been emptied out due to the high number of unemployment filings, and 10 states have borrowed about $20 billion from the U.S. Treasury Department to cover their share of the unemployment payments, which usually last 26 weeks, it was reported.

In the “Memorandum On Deferring Payroll Tax Obligations In Light Of The Ongoing COVID-19 Disaster,” Trump said that Social Security and Medicare taxes paid by employees through payroll taxes could be delayed until the end of this year. The deferral applies to workers who earn less than $4,000 on a biweekly basis, or about $104,000 a year.

It was noted that the payroll tax memorandum was a deferral, not a cut. But Trump later said that if he was reelected to the presidency in the November general election, he would seek to make payroll tax deferrals permanent. The power to change tax laws lies with Congress, which has rejected the idea, it was reported.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Washington have voiced opposition to permanent cuts, saying that the cuts would give little financial help to unemployed people and further strain the finances of Social Security and Medicare. Trump responded on Sunday by saying that the memorandum would have “zero impact” on Social Security.

In the “Executive Order On Fighting The Spread Of COVID-19 By Providing Assistance to Renters And Homeowners,” Trump ordered the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider measures temporarily stopping evictions of tenants for failure to pay rent.

The executive order does not reinstate the previous moratorium on evictions that ended in July and covered mortgages that were backed by federal funds, nor does the order set aside any funds to help homeowners or renters.

The “Memorandum On Continued Student Loan Payment Relief During The COVID-19 Pandemic” directs the U.S. Department of Education to further extend federal student loan relief granted in the CARES Act until the end of the year. Previously, student loan payments were currently paused and interest suspended on federal student loans until the end of September.

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