Trump’s Latest Executive Actions Are Likely Ineffective and Possibly Unconstitutional
President Donald Trump issued a series of executive actions Saturday intended to extend coronavirus relief measures in the absence of legislation by Congress. Their legality and practical effect are still being debated.
Of the four actions issued by the president over the weekend, the least controversial appears to be a memorandum allowing for the deferral of payments on federally held student loans until the end of the year. Trump had issued a similar order in March that deferred payments until September. That order was later codified in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
More contentious, but less impactful, is an executive order issued by Trump that attempts to limit evictions and foreclosures.
The CARES Act had suspended evictions at multifamily properties with a federally backed mortgage until July 24. It also granted homeowners up to 360 days of forbearance on federally backed mortgage loans.
The president’s Saturday order does not reinstate that eviction moratorium. It instead asks the secretary of health and human services to “consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent” would be necessary to prevent interstate transmission of COVID-19.
It also orders the secretaries of the Treasury and the Department of Housing and Urban Development to identify available federal funds that could be used to provide temporary rent and mortgage assistance for those struggling to pay their housing bills. This falls far short of the national ban on evictions and $175 billion in emergency homeowner and renter assistance passed by the House back in May, and housing activists aren’t happy about it:
Exactly right. The EO is an empty shell – it will create more harm by giving renters a false impression that they’re protected by evictions when they are not. With this EO, Trump has done nothing to stop evictions. https://t.co/5RvbCn2vR3
— Diane Yentel (@dianeyentel) August 8, 2020
Trump’s memorandums dealing with payroll taxes and unemployment benefits have sparked the most controversy.
One memo orders a deferral, but not forgiveness, of payroll taxes for employees making less than $4,000 per biweekly pay period until the end of the year. Workers would still be on the hook for these taxes come the end of the year, although Trump’s memo also asks the treasury secretary to “explore avenues, including legislation” to forgive this tax bill.
In addition, Trump issued a memorandum partially extending the now-expired federal unemployment aid provided for in the CARES Act. That bill had provided jobless workers with a $600 weekly unemployment bonus. The president’s order calls for a $400 weekly unemployment benefit to be paid out of the Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Relief Fund.
The aid would continue until the $70 billion Disaster Relief Fund is drawn down to $25 billion, or until December 6, 2020—whichever comes first. State governors would have to ask for this funding before receiving it. They’d also be required to chip in $100 of the $400 unemployment benefit.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called Trump’s executive orders unconstitutional, while also saying they do too little to help struggling families.
President Trump’s meager executive actions do little for working families. Republicans must come back to the neg
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