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.
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