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8 Aug, 2020 20:47

Trump signs executive orders on Covid-19 relief after talks break down between White House and Democrats

Trump signs executive orders on Covid-19 relief after talks break down between White House and Democrats

US President Donald Trump has signed a series of executive orders giving extended economic relief to Americans struggling economically during the Covid-19 pandemic after negotiations with Democrats broke down.

Trump announced the orders at a press conference at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club on Saturday, the same location where he warned such action would be taken a day earlier.

The orders will give a payroll tax holiday to Americans earning less than $100,000 a year. A second order will "protect people from eviction," Trump said. 

A third order will extend unemployment benefits, giving Americans out of jobs $400 a week on top of the unemployment benefits they would have been entitled to before the pandemic, which is a decrease from the previous $600 per week benefit Democrats were looking to extend through the end of the year.

Trump also said that student loan repayments would be deferred and that any accrued interest would be forgiven indefinitely.

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The announcements come following two weeks of tense negotiations between Democrats and White House officials that ultimately went nowhere. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) held a press conference on Friday, blasting the Trump administration for being unwilling to compromise.

The Democrats' $3.4 trillion dollar plan consisted of major funding for schools looking to reopen amid the ongoing pandemic and an extension of the $600 a week federal unemployment benefit which expired in July. It also called for more financial benefits for those threatened with eviction over unpaid bills.

Schumer and Pelosi addressed the potential of executive orders on Friday and warned they could be legally dubious, as Congress has authority over federal spending. Schumer also argued that executive orders would not be "close to as good" in terms of financially protecting struggling Americans.

Trump warned on Saturday that Democrats are pushing a “radical left-wing” agenda that has nothing to do with the “China virus” pandemic. Earlier, he had accused Democrats of holding the relief aid "hostage" and said they "don't want to help our people."

Trump's payroll tax cut is also a legal grey area as most experts agree such a move falls under Congressional authority and taxes not paid could eventually be owed unless Congress stepped in. 

Turning the press conference into a semi-campaign speech, Trump said if he is re-elected in November he will officially forgive these taxes, but warned that they could end up being owed if Joe Biden is elected and refuses to wave the accrued fees.

Asked about the fact that Congress could challenge his authority to wave the taxes without their approval, Trump said he would expect any challenge to “move very quickly” through the courts, and he accused Congress of “obstruction.”

He ended the press conference after reporters continued to challenge the legal authority surrounding the orders.

Over 160,000 US citizens have died from Covid-19 and many industries remain closed due to the pandemic and various state lockdowns. 

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