President Donald Trump has signed four executive orders aimed at helping Americans cope with the economic fallout from the pandemic, following the collapse in talks with Democrats over a Congressional rescue package.
The US president signed one order that would partly renew unemployment benefits included in a previous stimulus package which expired last month. He also approved an order that would suspend the payroll tax — something he had wanted to do long before the recent talks with Congress.
Mr Trump had threatened to take action after Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows failed to reach agreement with Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House speaker, and Chuck Schumer, the top Senate Democrat, over the contours of a rescue package.
“We have repeatedly stated our willingness to immediately sign legislation,” Mr Trump said at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey. “Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have chosen to hold this vital assistance hostage.”
The White House and Democrats have been at loggerheads for weeks over how to help the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic, as the unemployment rate remains in double digits.
Many economists are concerned that the economic rebound will suffer a setback following the expiration of $600-a-week jobless benefits that were a crucial component of the $2.2tn Cares Act passed at the end of March.
Mr Trump said his action would authorise the provision of $400 a week to unemployed Americans, with 75 per cent of the funding coming from the federal government and the remainder coming from the states. But many states are financially struggling as the economic crisis hits their tax base.
Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate finance committee, said Mr Trump was both providing less than Americans needed, and would place a huge burden on states that are already facing fiscal crises due to Covid-19.
“It would throw already overburdened state unemployment insurance programmes into chaos, making it harder to get benefits out the door,” Mr Wyden said.
In defending his decision to lower the benefit by $200, Mr Trump said the previous $600 weekly payments were a “disincentive” to returning to work.
Mr Trump said the payroll tax suspension would apply to those who earned less than $100,000 and would remain in place for the year. He said he would try to enact permanent payroll tax cuts if he won re-election.
“This will mean bigger paychecks for working families as we race to produce a vaccine and eradicate the China virus,” Mr Trump said.
Mr Trump said he wanted to reduce both the income tax rate and the capital gains rate — although almost all political experts believe it would be impossible to make permanent changes in the tax code in an election year.
Democrats have been pushing for a $3.4tn package, similar to the…