Trump issues executive orders aimed at providing added relief amid pandemic

As talks between Democrats and Republicans on a phase-four stimulus package for Americans have stalled, President Donald Trump filed executive orders over the weekend aimed at providing added economic relief to Americans amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The president on Saturday announced he would suspend payroll taxes until the end of the year for employers, extend the weekly federal unemployment benefits at $400 (down from $600 provided in the CARES Act that expired at the end of July), waive student debt payments through the end of 2020, and take action to help renters and homeowners avoid eviction and foreclosure.

Trump’s move has been deemed highly controversial by some regarding his use of presidential powers. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to appropriate funds and to make any changes to taxation and spending. A lawsuit challenging the president’s authority to take such actions is expected in the coming weeks.

Below is a summary detailing President Trump’s Executive Orders, courtesy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce:

Executive Order on Unemployment Insurance

  • Sets aside up to $44 billion from FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund to provide supplemental unemployment benefits to the unemployed.
  • The total value of the supplemental benefits is $400 per week per person through December 6, 2020 or until funds are exhausted.
  • FEMA funds can only cover 75% of the cost ($300 per person per week). States must cover the remaining 25% ($100 per person per week).
  • Governors must request the assistance.
  • Requests that states use any of their remaining funds provided under the CARES Act to fund the state portion.

Executive Order on Payroll Tax Deferral

  • Directs the Treasury Secretary to defer the withholding, deposit, and payment of the 6.2% payroll tax imposed on individuals for individuals whose bi-weekly wages are less than $4,000 pre-tax (approximately $104,000 a year).
  • The deferral is for taxes due September 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
  • Amounts deferred are deferred without penalty or interest.
  • Directs the Treasury to “explore avenues,” including legislation, to have the deferred payments forgiven.

Executive Order on Evictions

  • Directs that the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary and the Director of Centers for Disease Control (CDC) “shall consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 from one State or possession into any other State or possession.”
  • Directs the Treasury Secretary and  Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary to identify available federal funds to provide temporary financial assistance to renters and homeowners.
  • Directs the HUD Secretary to “take action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to promote the ability of renters and homeowners to avoid eviction or foreclosure…”
  • Directs that the Director of Federal Housing Finance Agency “shall review all existing authorities and resources that may be used to prevent evictions and foreclosures for renters and homeowners resulting from hardships caused by COVID-19.”

Executive Order on Student Loans

  • Directs the Secretary of Education to take action to modify existing hardship deferment requirements and “provide such deferments to borrowers as necessary to continue the temporary cessation of payments and the waiver of all interest on student loans held by the Department of Education until December 31, 2020.”

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