Trump signs a series of executive actions aiming to give Americans economic relief, including a $400 weekly boost to federal unemployment

  • President Donald Trump on Saturday signed multiple executive actions concerning federal unemployment, student loan relief, a payroll tax cut, and evictions.
  • But it's unclear whether he has the authority to take any of these actions, since Congress holds spending power. A court battle is likely.
  • The president's announcement comes after Congressional negotiations over upcoming coronavirus relief legislation have stalled with public clashes over the since-expired $600 boost to federal unemployment benefits.
  • Trump announced a $400 weekly boost to federal unemployment benefits, 25% of which he said would be up to the states to pay.
  • He also signed an executive order to create a payroll tax holiday for Americans earning less than $100,000 a year, from August 1 through the end of the year.
  • Trump also said he would extend the 0% interest rate on federal student loans at least through the end of the year, and directed his administration to try and prevent Americans from getting evicted.
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President Donald Trump on Saturday lashed out at Democrats over failed coronavirus relief negotiations and announced a series of executive actions concerning federal unemployment, evictions and foreclosures, student loans, and a payroll tax holiday.

"My administration will provide immediate and vital relief to Americans struggling in this difficult time," Trump said Saturday at a press conference at his private golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. "And the beautiful thing about this difficult time is that we're now coming back and setting records."

For weeks, lawmakers have been unable to agree on coronavirus relief legislation, and in particular, have clashed over the expanded boost to federal unemployment benefits.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been adamant in extending the $600 weekly boost to federal unemployment, which passed in March as part of the CARES Act and expired at the end of July. But Republicans have been against the expansion, arguing that the weekly boost "paid people to stay home."

Trump on Saturday announced he would order a $400 weekly boost to federal unemployment, of which the federal government would cover 75%, leaving states to cover 25%. Trump told reporters the relief would reach Americans in "very rapid" manner, though he did not say how.

When a reporter asked why he went with a $400 boost rather than the previous $600 weekly increase, Trump argued that the previous boost disincentivized Americans from returning to work.

"It's not a hardship," he said. "This is the money they need. This is the money they want and this gives them an incentive to go back to work."

The president also announced a temporary suspension of the payroll tax, which he said he would want to make permanent if he's reelected in the fall, for Americans earning less than $100,000 per year. He first said the holiday would begin on September 1, though later said it would be implemented retroactively, beginning August 1. The text of the order itself says September 1.

"This will mean bigger paychecks for working families, as we race to produce a vaccine and eradicate the China virus once and for all," he said.

Trump also announced he would extend the 0% interest rate on federal student loans at least through the end of the year, and said he was prepared to extend it past that point at a later date.

"It's not their fault that this virus came into our country," Trump said of those struggling due to the economic impacts of COVID-19. "It's China's fault it came into the world."

He also signed an executive action to direct federal agencies, like the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to work toward preventing evictions and foreclosures. The order offered suggestions but did not explicitly halt either evictions or foreclosures. 

But it's unclear whether Trump has the authority to take any of these actions, since Congress holds spending power. A court battle is likely.

Of potential legal challenges to his orders, Trump said he believed such challenges would go "very rapidly through the courts, if we get sued — maybe we won't get sued."

Below are links to the full text of the four executive actions Trump signed on Saturday:

  1. Extending federal unemployment benefits: "Memorandum on Authorizing the Other Needs Assistance Program for Major Disaster Declarations Related to Coronavirus Disease 2019"
  2. Enacting a payroll tax holiday: "Memorandum on Deferring Payroll Tax Obligations in Light of the Ongoing COVID-19 Disaster"
  3. Preventing evictions and foreclosures: "Executive Order on Fighting the Spread of COVID-19 by Providing Assistance to Renters and Homeowners"
  4. Suspending student loan payments: "Memorandum on Continued Student Loan Payment Relief During the COVID-19 Pandemic"

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