Aug 8, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump signs 4 executive actions on coronavirus aid

President Trump speaking during a press conference on Aug. 8.
President Trump speaking during a press conference on Aug. 8. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Trump on Saturday signed four executive actions to provide relief from economic damage sustained during the coronavirus pandemic after talks between the White House and Democratic leadership collapsed Friday afternoon.

Why it matters: Because the Constitution gives Congress the power to appropriate federal spending, Trump has limited authority to act unilaterally — and risks a legal challenge if congressional Democrats believe he has overstepped.

The president said the order and memoranda:

  1. Defer payroll taxes for Americans earning less than $100,000 a year.
  2. Implement a moratorium on evictions and give financial assistance to renters.
  3. Add $400 per week in extra unemployment benefits through the end of 2020, requiring states to cover 25% of the additional benefits.
  4. Postpone student loan interest and payments through the end of 2020.

What he's saying: “Through these four actions, my administration will provide immediate and vital relief to Americans struggling in this difficult time," Trump said at the Saturday afternoon press conference.

  • "Maybe they’ll bring legal action, maybe they won’t," Trump said of Democrats in Congress. "But they won’t win.” He added that the cases would go “very rapidly” through courts if litigated.
  • The president said the additional unemployment benefits can be paid for with the “significant money that was unspent” from the CARES Act and claimed that the payroll tax cut will help “greatly.”
  • Trump said the additional unemployment benefits are "not a hardship,” but an “incentive” to encourage people to return to work.

Of note: Previous enhanced COVID-19-related unemployment benefits added $600 a week to standard state unemployment.

  • Trump said his administration is considering cuts to income taxes for “middle-income people,” as well as capital gains taxes to encourage job growth.
  • The president also floated eliminating the payroll tax for Americans earning less than $100,000 a year if he is reelected in November.

Context: Talks between administration officials and Democratic leaders ended on Friday evening with no agreement and no additional talks scheduled.

  • Republicans proposed a $1 trillion plan, while Democrats asked for $3.4 trillion before lowering their request to $2 trillion.

The big picture: It's also unknown whether these orders are an adequate response to the current needs of the country.

  • 29 million adults reported that their household didn’t get enough to eat for the week ending July 7, while states currently face estimated budgets shortfalls of $555 billion through 2022, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
  • In order to pay for the the deficits, states may have to layoff employees and cut education, health care and services if they do not receive additional federal aid.

Flashback: This is not the first time Trump has tried to bypass Congress on spending.

  • He declared a national emergency in 2019 to shift billions of dollars from the Pentagon budget to help pay for his proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
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