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Trump Signs Four Executive Actions Aimed at Extending COVID-19 Aid

On Saturday, President Trump tried to break the stalemate on the COVID-19 legislative package by taking executive action on four topics, but it’s unclear how much they will help. Trump’s actions do not address the Paycheck Protection Program, which expired on August 8, or provide and liability protection for employers.

Specifically, the President signed:

(1) A memorandum to the Secretary of the Treasury to suspend payroll taxes through the end of the year for individuals making $100,000 a year or less. The President said that he “plan[s] to forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax” if he wins re-election in November. It is unclear, however, if the payroll tax will really result in more money for workers because many employers may retain the funds knowing they may eventually be required to pay the tax when this suspension ends;

(2) A memorandum directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to use up to $44 billion from the Disaster Relief Fund to provide an additional $400 per week in unemployment benefits. The memo directs states to match up to 25 percent of the funding, meaning that only $300 per week will come from the federal government;

(3) A memorandum to the Secretary of Education directing to postpone student loan interest and payments through December 31, 2020; and

(4) An Executive Order directing the Department of Health and Human Services, the Treasury Department, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to use existing authorities to prevent foreclosures and evictions nationally.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer criticized the President’s executive actions, calling them “unworkable, weak and narrow policy actions” that would cut unemployment benefits and threaten the viability of Social Security and Medicare. Pelosi and Schumer encouraged Republicans to come back to the negotiating table on the next round of COVID-19 relief. Additionally, Trump’s executive actions were criticized by some Republicans and are likely to be challenged in court.

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