Trump signs executive order to extend unemployment benefits, stop evictions

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, participates in a coronavirus update briefing on Aug. 4, 2020, in the Oval Office Room of the White House. | White House/Shealah Craighead

President Donald Trump on Saturday signed four executive orders to provide more coronavirus pandemic relief to people, including extending weekly unemployment benefits and protecting homeowners and renters from evictions.

“Through these four actions, my administration will provide immediate and vital relief to Americans struggling at this difficult time,” Trump said in a press conference after signing the orders.

One of the orders, signed a day after talks between the White House and the Democrats fell apart, extend weekly unemployment benefits — in addition to standard state unemployment benefits — for those laid off during the pandemic. The unemployed will receive $400 a week. The federal government will cover 75% of the cost and the states will have to pay the rest.

“Because many of the relief programs created by the Congress have expired or will shortly expire, my Administration and the Republican leadership in the United States Senate have proposed multiple options to continue to provide needed relief to Americans,” Trump said in the order. “But Democratic Members of Congress have twice blocked temporary extensions of supplemental unemployment benefits. Political games that harm American lives are unacceptable, especially during a global pandemic, and therefore I am taking action to provide financial security to Americans.”

The pandemic-related unemployment benefits that expired in July amounted to $600 a week. The Democrats wanted the additional benefits to remain $600 a week. The reduction, Trump explained, was an incentive for the laid-off workers to return to work.

“This gives them a great incentive to go back to work so this is much more than what was originally agreed. The 600 was a number that was there and as you know, there was … difficulty with the 600 number because it really was a disincentive,” the president said.

He said the weekly $400 is "generous" and noted, "Again, it wasn’t their fault; it was China’s fault."

Another order protects homeowners and renters from evictions, directing authorities to provide “temporary financial assistance” to renters and homeowners “struggling to meet their monthly rental or mortgage obligations,” according to Reuters.

“We don’t want people being evicted and the act that I am signing will solve that problem — largely, hopefully, completely,” Trump said.

Trump also deferred payroll tax, which funds Social Security, for workers making less than $100,000 a year.

“American workers have been particularly hard hit by this ongoing disaster,” Trump said in that order. “While the Department of the Treasury has already undertaken historic efforts to alleviate the hardships of our citizens, it is clear that further temporary relief is necessary to support working Americans during these challenging times.”

Talks with Democrats failed partly because they were calling for a package worth about $3.5 trillion while the White House and Senate Republicans had proposed $1.5 trillion in relief.

The Democrats’ proposal included the banning of voter ID and providing stimulus checks for illegal immigrants, Trump said. “What does this have to do with the coronavirus?” he was quoted as saying. “They want to bail out states that have been badly run by Democrats. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have chosen to hold this vital assistance hostage on behalf of very extreme partisan demands. They want to steal an election.”

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