President Donald Trump on Saturday signed executive orders offering less unemployment insurance than the last coronavirus relief bill, extending protections for student borrowers and renters, along with a measure temporarily deferring the payroll tax—after negotiations on Capitol Hill for a coronavirus relief bill broke down this week.
The order continues weekly unemployment payments that expired in July under the previous relief bill, but cuts the benefit to $400 from $600, and directs states to cover 25% of the cost.
Under the CARES Act, passed in late March, the $600 payment was fully paid for by the federal government—but under the order, the federal government is on the hook for $300 while states are being asked to pay $100.
The measures do not include another round of $1,200 stimulus checks.
Trump said the order also allows employers to “defer payment of the employee portion” of the payroll tax for workers making less than $100,000 per year, retroactively starting August 1 until the end of the year.
Trump added that he will make permanent cuts to payroll taxes if he’s elected for a second term in November.
Trump has long called for a payroll tax cut as a mechanism for coronavirus economic relief, but the idea was rejected by both parties during negotiations for the first stimulus bill over concerns it would negatively impact Social Security and Medicare funding while not benefitting retired people or those who are unemployed.
Trump said one order would “make sure renters and homeowners can stay in their homes,” but the actual text of the order does not immediately extend a moratorium on evictions for renters living in homes with federally backed mortgages, which also expired two weeks ago.
Instead, it says the secretary of Health and Human Services and the director of CDC “shall consider” whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions “are reasonably necessary to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 from one State or possession into any other State or possession.”
Automatic forbearance for federal student loans under the CARES Act set to end on September 30 was also extended to the end of 2020, but the measure doesn’t apply to private student loans.
"If they don't, they don't. That's up to them," Trump said when asked what happens if governors don't have the funds available, according to NPR. "The states have the money. It's sitting there."
In a statement, Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden said the orders were a “series of half-baked measures” that put Social Security at risk. “This is no art of the deal. This is not presidential leadership. These orders are not real solutions. They are just another cynical ploy designed to deflect responsibility. Some measures do far more harm than good,” the statement reads.
Amid deep disagreements and infighting among Senate Republicans, the White House began negotiating directly with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to hammer out an agreement by Friday. But talks stalled because the White House didn’t want the bill to cost more than $1 trillion, and took issue with the Democrat proposal that included extra federal aid to states and cities that Trump called a “bailout” to areas “badly run by Democrats” as well as measures leaving out incentives for schools to reopen. Democrats on Friday offered to cut their proposal to $2 trillion if the GOP would come up to meet it, but Mnuchin dismissed that offer as a “non-starter.”