Trump considers carrying out COVID-19 economic relief with executive orders
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Negotiations are grinding on in Washington over what the next round of pandemic relief will look like. The $600-a-week payments in additional unemployment payments have expired, and so has a federal eviction moratorium for renters.
But President Donald Trump has said he wants to bring back some of that relief himself. Specifically, he’s proposing bringing back the eviction moratorium and enacting a payroll tax cut all by himself, through executive order.
Marketplace’s Nova Safo has the details. He spoke with host Sabri Ben-Achour and the following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Sabri Ben-Achour: First, Nova, can you remind us what a payroll tax is and why the president wants to cut it?
Nova Safo: The payroll tax is the money that comes out of workers’ paychecks for Social Security and Medicare. The president has floated this idea of a payroll tax cut before. The goal is to put more money in Americans’ pockets and boost the economy, but it hasn’t found a lot of support in Washington from either party. Republicans notably did not include it in their pandemic relief proposal that they put out last week, which kicked off negotiations. Certainly Democrats don’t support it, and the reasoning goes that if you’re working, you’re not the one who most needs government help right now.
Ben-Achour: Can the president do what he’s proposing? Can he simply order a halt to evictions, or order the IRS to stop collecting certain taxes?
Safo: For the tax issue, not directly. A workaround idea is for Trump to declare a national economic emergency and order the IRS to postpone the collection of the payroll tax. And then after the election, Congress would pass a bill, theoretically, forgiving the uncollected taxes.
As for the eviction moratorium, I spoke to a housing specialist, Jenny Schuetz at the Brookings Institution, this morning, who said there are two federal agencies that could extend eviction protections for renters in federally-backed housing, just as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act did. Trump is ultimately in charge of one of those agencies, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but that would affect a minority of renters. Providing money to pay rent would help more people.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?
On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.
What kind of help can small businesses get right now?
A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.
What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?
New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.
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