Donald Trump signed four executive actions Saturday that aim to bolster the economy and assist Americans who are struggling financially amid the pandemic.
The move was seen as an attempt to sidestep Congress, which failed to reach an agreement on the next stimulus relief bill during discussions this week.
The executive orders provide a payroll tax holiday for those earning less than $100,000 a year, defer student loan repayments through 2020, and put a freeze on evictions from homes with government-backed mortgages. Trump also extended the unemployment benefits, which expired last month; However, he reduced the weekly benefit from $600 to $400, 25 percent of which will be covered by the states.
"I'm taking action to provide an additional or extra $400 a week and expanded benefits, $400," Trump said. "That's generous, but we want to take care of our people."
Though the $400 payment is lower than what was offered under the CARES Act, many Republicans have proposed reducing the benefit to just $200 per week. Some GOP lawmakers say that Americans will have no incentive to return to work if they're receiving more through unemployment than what they earn in wages. However, many economists dismiss the argument, pointing out that the job market has become significantly weaker due to the pandemic.
"Concerns about the work disincentive simply ignore the realities of the labor market for working people, who will be very unlikely to turn down a job for a temporary boost in benefits, particularly when it is now clear that jobs are going to be scarce for a very long time," wrote Heidi Shierholz, a senior economist and director of policy for the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. Cutting off the $600 cannot incentivize people to get jobs that aren’t there."
Trump was also pressed about the legality of his executive orders, as funding for programs typically requires authorization from Congress.
"If we get sued, it's somebody that doesn't want people to get money," Trump said. "And that's not going to be a very popular thing."