Trump orders extended jobless benefits, payroll tax deferral

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump announced four executive actions on Saturday, including continued expanded unemployment benefits and a temporary payroll tax deferral for some workers, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hobble the economy.

Trump also ordered continued eviction protection and student-loan relief.

The moves could jeopardise negotiations with congressional Democrats over additional coronavirus relief package, with the two sides trillions of dollars apart on key issues, including aid to state governments and the amount of supplementary unemployment benefits. The president, though, said he would continue to negotiate with Democrats who said Saturday’s measures “provide little real help to families”.

“Trump’s ‘meager’ policy announcements were unworkable, weak and narrow, and by pushing off payroll taxes for some, endanger seniors’ Social Security and Medicare,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.

“What Democrats primarily want is bailout money that has nothing to do with the coronavirus,” Trump said during a news conference at his golf club in Bed- minster, New Jersey. “We’re not willing to do that.”

Trump said his action authorises the US Treasury to allow companies to defer payroll taxes for Americans making less than US$100,000 (RM419,000) a year from Sept 1 through Dec 31. He said if he is re-elected in November, he might extend the deferral and terminate the tax for some workers.

“This fake tax cut would also be a big shock to workers who thought they were getting a tax cut when it was only a delay,” Senator Ron Wyden, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement. “These workers would be hit with much bigger payments down the road.”

The president said another order would provide US$400 a week in jobless benefits, down from US$600 weekly that had been provided through last week, authorised by a Congressional stimulus bill in March and that states would be responsible for covering 25% of the cost.

The administration is directing states to use part of the US$150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund, while the federal government will tap on US$44 billion of the existing US$70 billion Disaster Relief Fund, Bloom-

berg Economics economist Andrew Husby said.“Because Trump plans to taps a limited pool of existing funds to extend unemployment benefits at US$400 per week, there is a high risk they run short ahead of the election,” Husby said.

To act on his own, the president is relying on an expansive and controversial reading of executive power that likely will face legal challenges. Trump’s advisors said executive action could pressure Democrats to reduce their demands and allow him to argue to voters that he’s looking out for their well- being amid congressional inaction. — Bloomberg