President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders Saturday that expands coronavirus economic relief to Americans that have been hit financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the orders were the extension of unemployment benefits, an extension of the federal moratorium on evictions, providing a payroll tax holiday and deferment of student loan payments through 2020.
“We’re going to save American jobs and provide relief to the American workers,” Trump said during a press conference at his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J. on Saturday.
It’s no secret that the pandemic has hit the U.S. economy hard. Retailers across the board have faced challenges with one recent study suggesting roughy two-fifths of shoppers have cut back their spending on footwear and apparel. With retail bankruptcies mounting and employers laying off and furloughing workers in droves, the American labor force is struggling to recover from coronavirus losses.
The President’s new executive order will extend unemployment benefits at a reduced rate of $400 per week instead of the previous $600 per week that was approved in March and expired at the end of July.
Congress has been in a debate over coronavirus relief packages for several weeks now. Democrats have been insisting that they will not support a bill if it doesn’t continue the $600 per week in unemployment benefits, while Republicans proposed a bill for $200 per week in unemployment through September before switching to a 70% wage replacement.
Facing pressure to improve the national economy, the Trump Administration met both sides in the middle with the $400 proposal. Congress democrats turned down the proposal, so acting on advice from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Trump signed the executive order.
His orders may soon face a legal challenge, though, since continuing the programs requires Congress-controlled federal funding.
Trump added that he would establish a payroll tax holiday through the end of the year to those earning less than $100,000 annually. He will also instruct the Treasury Department to allow employers to defer payment of the employee portion for certain payroll taxes.
In the less than 24 hours since Trump signed the new orders, his administration has faced swift backlash from Democrats who have criticized the measures as “unconstitutional” and impractical.
“The president’s meager, weak and unconstitutional actions further demand that we have an agreement,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace.
According to Trump, if he is re-elected in November he hopes to extend the deferral and “terminate” the tax, which funds Social Security and Medicare programs.