President Trump signed four executive orders on Saturday to extend unemployment benefits, suspend payroll taxes, and secure federal eviction and student loan relief.
The unilateral move, based on shaky legal ground, comes after the fifth round of coronavirus relief debates in Congress. The President did not attend any of the talks, but he said his staff regularly updated him on the progress.
Trump announced the four executive orders during a press conference on Saturday from his private golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. It remained unclear whether he has the legal power to fulfill all of the pledges he made.
The first order concerns the unemployment insurance problem. Nearly 32 million Americans relied on the federal program to make ends meet. The program expired on July 31.
Trump’s order expanded the benefit of USD 400 per week, whereas the federal government will pay USD 300, and the state will cover the remaining USD 100. However, it is not clear whether all the local governments will be able to pay the extra unemployment insurance as the virus hit hard many of them.
Another order directs the Treasury Department to let employers defer payment of employee-side social security payroll taxes throughout the end of the year. The measure is only valid for employees making less than USD 100,000 per annum.
If re-elected in November, Trump said he would forgive the deferred payroll taxes. The last two orders defer student loan payments through the end of the year and aim to minimize federal housing evictions.
Numerous experts questioned the President’s authority to intervene on unemployment benefits and the payroll tax, stating that his unilateral actions may face legal challenges. Trump shrugged off questions on potential lawsuits, saying they will not materialize.
In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer slammed Trump’s executive orders. They argued that the payroll tax holiday could put at risk the seniors’ Social Security and Medicare.
Pelosi and Schumer also accused the President of not saying anything about school reopening and increased coronavirus testing. The fellow Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden, said that the move aims to distract Trump’s failure to extend the USD 600 federal boost for nearly 30 million unemployed Americans.
The presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, also criticized Trump’s executive orders, labeling them as ”a reckless war on Social Security.” In Biden’s view, the payroll tax holiday would seriously affect the elderly and people with disabilities.
What do you think? Do you support or oppose the payroll tax holiday suggested by the President?