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What’s Included in the Presidential Executive Orders?

August 13, 2020

On August 8, 2020 President Trump signed four executive orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic security challenges. Most of these executive orders require additional actions by Congress or federal agencies to take effect. 

Payroll Tax Delay:
President Trump asked the U.S. Treasury Department to halt collection of payroll taxes from September 1 through December 31 for workers who earn less than $4,000 every two weeks (or roughly $104,000 per year). This is a tax deferral or delay, not a tax cut, and individuals will still be responsible for paying those taxes at the end of the year. The President does not have the authority to cut taxes on his own and any tax cut would require legislation passed by Congress and guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department. 

Unemployment Assistance:
President Trump has called for federal unemployment assistance to begin at a level of $400 per week for eligible workers. This is separate from the enhanced unemployment benefits provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Congress passed in March. The enhanced CARES Act unemployment benefits expired on July 31st. Per President Trump’s order, the federal government would pay $300 with states providing the additional $100, but the state’s ability to provide that extra funding may result in the final amount varying by state.  State unemployment systems will not be able to administer this enhanced payment immediately, so many individuals may not get this additional relief until at least September. However, the additional payments will be retroactive to August 1st. The executive order asks that the aid continues through December 6 or until funding runs out – but given current data, funding would be depleted by October 31st.

Housing Assistance:
The CARES Act included a federal moratorium preventing many evictions, which expired on July 24. That moratorium covered all renters living in places that had a federally owned mortgage. The executive order by President Trump does not extend the CARES Act moratorium on eviction protections. It directs the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to consider if a halt on evictions would stop the spread of COVID-19 but does not require any action to prevent or limit evictions. The Executive Order also directs the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to find additional funds to direct toward rent relief; however, even if HUD found additional funds, Congressional action would be required to redirect any funds towards rent relief. 

Student Loan Payments:    
The executive order relating to student loans waives all interest on student loans held by the federal government through the end of 2020 and allows people to delay payments until December 31, 2020. This is a delay, not a cancellation, and principal payments are due on December 31st and full payments are slated to restart January 1, 2021.

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