With no deal on a new coronavirus relief package in sight, President Donald Trump signed four executive actions Saturday afternoon that include a $400-per-week boost to unemployment benefits and a payroll tax cut in an attempt to provide Americans some economic help.
His legal ability to do so, however, remains unclear, and legal challenges are all but guaranteed. Trump has directed money to be allocated from the Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Relief Fund, saying it holds about $70 billion in emergency assistance.
Trump appeared optimistic about the threat of a lawsuit over his executive power, telling reporters gathered at his New Jersey golf club, “If we get sued, it’s somebody that doesn’t want people to get money. And that’s not going to be a very popular thing.”
Under the president’s memorandum, states would be required to pay 25% of the additional unemployment benefits ― at a time when states are already straining their budgets as they fight a virus outbreak that is still raging across many parts of the country. It’s not clear how quickly states would be able to implement the new policy, which calls for them to coordinate with multiple federal agencies on setting up an entirely new “lost wages assistance program.” State workforce agencies have struggled this year just to pay federal benefits through their regular unemployment systems.
Legislation that allowed Americans an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits, enacted by Congress earlier this year, was allowed to expire last week. Negotiations between Republicans and Democrats on a fresh relief package have been stalled for days, with the Republican caucus resisting Democrats’ push for legislation that would continue the $600 payments.
Asked why he settled on $400, Trump said the lesser amount gives people “a great incentive to go back to work.”
If he gets his way, Trump’s “payroll tax holiday” ― an unpopular proposal on both sides of the...