President Donald Trump took four executive actions — one executive order and three memoranda — on Saturday addressing the pandemic after Republican negotiators and Democratic leaders failed for nearly two weeks to negotiate a coronavirus relief package that could pass through both chambers of the legislature.
During a press conference on Saturday, Trump said he was taking several executive actions, including establishing a payroll tax holiday for workers who earn less than $100,000 per year, protecting renters from evictions, and expanding unemployment benefits by $400 per week — 25% which would be covered by states.
The president said that he could make the the payroll tax holiday permanent after the election, meaning that those taxes would not simply be deferred but eliminated, and contrasted this decision with Biden, who the president argued would not be able to do so because the Democrats are in favor of adding “three trillion dollars in taxes.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, the Disaster Relief Fund will provide the money for the weekly benefits, which will be available until early December “or until the disaster fund’s balance drops to $25 billion, according to the executive action. To pay for the benefits, the action sets aside $44 billion from the fund, which currently has a balance of about $70 billion.”
The Democrat-endorsed HEROES Act was in favor of extending the unemployment benefits boost at $600 per week into the next year, while Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had advocated for a 70% wage replacement cap.
“We’re doing that without the Democrats,” Trump said of the $400 weekly unemployment boost. “We should have been able to do it very easily with them, but they want all of these additional things that have nothing to do with helping people.”
The president also said that he was extending relief to student loan borrowers by keeping student loan interest payments temporarily at 0% to the end of the year, and suspended student loan payments until December.
Trump blamed Democrats on Saturday for pushing unrelated measures in the House-passed HEROES Act back in May, saying one-third of the multi-trillion dollar bill was for stuff “completely unrelated” to the pandemic.
“They have things in there that nobody has even had the time to look at or read,” said Trump.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the duo negotiating on behalf of the Democratic side, said in a statement Saturday that Trump’s executive actions show the he “still does not comprehend the seriousness or the urgency of the health and economic crises facing working families.”
“These policy announcements provide little real help to families. For instance, not only does the President’s announcement not actually extend the eviction moratorium, it provides no assistance to help pay the rent, which will only leave desperate families to watch their debt pile higher. Instead of passing a bill, now President Trump is cutting families’ unemployment benefits and pushing states further into budget crises, forcing them to make devastating cuts to life-or-death services,” said the Democratic leaders.
Pelosi and Schumer also called on Republican negotiators to return to the table to make a deal, saying “meet us halfway and work together to deliver immediate relief to the American people. Lives are being lost, and time is of the essence.”
[Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected. It previously stated that President Trump took “three executive actions.” The president actually took four executive actions, as noted in the corrected first line of the piece].