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Tax cuts, reduced unemployment benefits: What's in Trump's coronavirus executive orders

Reuters August 8 | Updated on August 09, 2020 Published on August 09, 2020

US President Donald Trump signs executive orders for economic relief during a news conference amid the spread of the coronavirus disease, at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, on August 8, 2020.   -  REUTERS

After failing to reach a deal with the U.S. Congress for a fresh round of coronavirus pandemic relief, President Donald Trump signed a series of executive orders aimed at pumping up America's pandemic-hit economy.

The orders are likely to face some legal challenges.

Unemployment relief

Trump's order cuts enhanced federal unemployment benefits - a lifeline for the tens of millions of Americans thrown out of work during the pandemic - from $600 to $400 per week. Democrats had been lobbying to extend the original $600 a week enhanced benefits, which expired on July 31.

Trump proposes taking most of the money from the coffers of the Federal Emergency Management Agency - $44 billion, according to the order - with 25% of the money coming from states.

It's not clear how Trump will convince state governments, whose revenues have been hard hit by the crisis, to pay their proposed share.

Trump called the reduced payments “generous.”

Payroll tax cut

Trump's first order waives the payroll tax that funds Social Security in a bid to inject extra money directly into salaried employees' pockets. Trump has been pushing the idea for a while, but it has found little support in Congress from Democrats or his fellow Republicans.

The executive order says the cut comes into effect on Sept. 1, but Trump said it “most likely” would be retroactive to Aug. 1 and translate into “bigger paychecks for working families.”

Protection from eviction

Trump's order protecting homeowners and renters from evictions is unlikely to face a challenge from Democrats; indeed, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week encouraged the move. But it isn't clear how it will be executed.

The order directs authorities to provide “temporary financial assistance” to renters and homeowners “struggling to meet their monthly rental or mortgage obligations.”

Even Trump seemed a little hazy on the order's ultimate effects, saying “we don't want people being evicted and the act that I am signing will solve that problem - largely, hopefully, completely.”

Student loan interest suspension

Trump said that interest on student loan payments - frozen since March - would be suspended until the end of the year.

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Published on August 09, 2020
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