Trump signs coronavirus relief orders

US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
President Donald Trump has signed executive orders partly restoring enhanced unemployment payments to the tens of millions of Americans who lost jobs in the coronavirus pandemic, as the United States marked a grim milestone of 5 million cases.

Negotiations broke down this week between the White House and top Democrats in Congress over how best to help Americans cope with the heavy human and economic toll of the crisis, which has killed more than 160,000 people across the country.

Trump said the orders would provide an extra $US400 ($NZ600) per week in unemployment payments, less than the $US600 per week passed earlier in the crisis. Some of the measures were likely to face legal challenges, as the U.S. Constitution gives Congress authority over federal spending.

"This is the money they need, this is the money they want, this gives them an incentive to go back to work," the Republican president said of the lower payments. He said 25% of it would be paid by states, whose budgets have been hard hit by the crisis.

Republicans have argued that higher payments were a disincentive for unemployed Americans to try to return to work, though economists, including Federal Reserve officials, disputed that assertion.

Trump's move to take relief measures out of the hands of Congress drew immediate criticism from some Democrats.

"Donald Trump is trying to distract from his failure to extend the $US600 federal boost for 30 million unemployed workers by issuing illegal executive orders," said Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. "This scheme is a classic Donald Trump con: playacting at leadership while robbing people of the support they desperately need."

The Democratic-majority House of Representatives passed a coronavirus support package in May which the Republican-led Senate ignored.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called the orders a "series of half-baked measures" and accused Trump of putting Social Security "at grave risk" by delaying the collection of payroll taxes that pay for the programme.

Trump also said he was suspending collection of payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security and other federal programs, an idea that he has repeatedly raised but has been rejected by both parties in Congress. He said the suspension would apply to people making less than $US100,000 per year.

His orders would also stop evictions from rental housing that has federal financial backing and extend zero percent interest on federally financed student loans.

Trump initially played down the disease's threat and has drawn criticism for inconsistent messages on public health steps such as social distancing and masks.

He spoke to reporters on Saturday at his New Jersey golf club, in a room that featured a crowd of cheering supporters.

FAR APART

Nearly two weeks of talks between White House officials and congressional Democrats ended on Friday with the two sides still about $US2 trillion apart.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had pushed to extend the enhanced unemployment payments, which expired at the end of July, at the previous rate of $US600 as well as to provide more financial support for city and state governments battered by the crisis.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Friday offered to reduce the $US3.4 trillion coronavirus aid package that the House passed in May by nearly a third if Republicans would agree to more than double their $US1 trillion counteroffer.

White House negotiators Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows rejected the offer.

The $US1 trillion package that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled late last month ran into immediate opposition from his own party, with as many as 20 of the Senate's 53 Republicans expected to oppose it.

Trump did not rule out a return to negotiations with Congress.

"I'm not saying they're not going to come back and negotiate," he said on Saturday. "Hopefully, we can do something with them at a later date."

Democrats have already warned that such executive orders are legally dubious and would likely be challenged in court, but a court fight could take months.

Trump has managed to sidestep Congress on spending before, declaring a national emergency on the US-Mexico border to shift billions of dollars from the defence budget to pay for a wall he promised during his 2016 election campaign.

Congress passed legislation to stop him, but there were too few votes in the Republican-controlled Senate to override his veto - a scenario that would likely play out again with less than 90 days to go before the November 3 presidential election.

Comments

tRump seizing more power every day. Here he is using his refusal to work with Congress in a bid to become King of the USA.
I expect tRump to lose the election, even though the republicans are doing everything they can to rig the election, but I don't expect him to leave office. He will declare the election invalid and call on the heavily armed MAGA Morons to keep him in power.

So let's get this straight. Trump has:-
Approved $400 per week unemployment for those that lost their job because of Covid.
Made the interest rate on Student Loans 0%
Cancelled Federal payroll tax for those earning less than 100,000 pa which amounts to 15.4% benefit, roughly half is a saving for the worker and half to the employer
Extended the eviction freeze until the years end.
That makes him more Left of centre than our Labourites.
Come on Adern. How about you remove 15% PAYE for those of us earning less than $100k as an election sweetener.
Fat chance I'd say, with the polls the way the are.
Now about the Nat's ???
What do you think ?
Would that get Kiwi's working so we didn't have to risk Covid with imported labour for the upcoming harvest ???
The more Dems encourage riots (that the media reports as protests), the more they call for police defunding, the more they have stupid demands for open borders, postal voting with no ID checks and free medical for everyone (which even NZ doesn't have) then the more Trump will win 2020.
NZ could do with some honest reporting before then, if you want us to continue believing what we read.

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