Trump’s COVID Executive Order – Not Actually Helpful

Taylor Knox

COVID

I recently wrote about the proposed stimulus packages set forth by both the Democrats, with the HEROES Act, and the Republicans, with the HEALS Act; but at the moment neither are anywhere near actualization, and so the President decided to take matters into his own hands. Trump decided to sign one Executive Order and three memorandums directly relating to the COVID pandemic and the massive need for government intervention in every day American lives. He signed this order on Saturday, August 8th 2020, after congress remained deadlocked over the next stimulus package needed by the American people. Neither side has been willing to give; and heels have been dug in the dirt while innocent Americans toil and fret over where they may live, how to get groceries on the table, if their kids will be able to attend school, or simply finding work for themselves. Trump’s big show was really just that – a big show for the polls. He has continually been more worried about the 24-hour news cycle (and their many daily opinions of him) than he has ever been about taking the novel Coronavirus seriously, and this Executive Order (+3 memorandums) shows so much. It is superficial and unlikely to really help anyone while they need it. The Executive order is about housing rentals and evictions due to unemployment resulting from COVID, while the memorandums relate to student loan deferral, additional weekly COVID unemployment funds, and a payroll tax delay.

The eviction issue is one that about 30 million Americans are most worried about and there was no actual help given in Trump’s order. His eviction order basically asks the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, and the Director of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Robert Redfield, to “consider” banning evictions during the current pandemic and economic crisis plaguing the country. Trump also asked Treasure Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary, Ben Carson, to see if they can’t find magical money somewhere to potentially help out as well. They may look into it and help, but they also may not. This is primarily why this order does literally nothing.
Under the CARES Act; which was the first stimulus package delivered by the government to the American people earlier this year, renters that live off of or in federal housing, receive federal housing assistance, or rent from any properties who’s mortgage is essentially owned by the government – Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are two such companies, were given eviction and late payment protection that ended on July 24th. This moratorium ending leaves residents with the very real possibility of being evicted in as little as 30 days with nowhere to go and no current help from the government.
Trump’s Executive Order did nothing to cease, ban, or hinder evictions of Americans during this pandemic.

Trump also signed a memorandum about payroll tax that he thinks somehow will make up for the lack of a second stimulus check. The payroll tax deferment is applicable to citizens that make less than $4,000 biweekly by NOT taking their Social Security Tax (6.2%) out of each paycheck. The idea means more money on individual employee’s paychecks. Sounds alright, I mean it’ll take multiple of my paychecks to equal a stimulus check but at least it’s something…..right? No. Unfortunately, this is also a pointless “action” because employers can choose to withhold the tax or not, they can either pay you normally or remove the payroll tax (that MOST businesses have already been given payroll tax deferral for the rest of the year, thanks to CARES), but why wouldn’t they want you to get more money?? Someone will be paying these taxes back as they are not forgiven or erased, but just pushed back. If an employer does this then they will have to ensure their employees pay back their portion or likely be on the hook themselves. Also, if you’re unemployed thanks to COVID, this payroll tax isn’t going to benefit you $.01. If Trump gets re-elected, he said he would have Congress forgive the accumulating taxes but what happens to the agencies that use that tax??? Social Security and even Medicaid would take a huge financial hit, and that is exactly what Trump has wanted, and yet would negatively impact a large swath of citizens that have been paying into Social Security for decades and those that rely on Medicare.

Trump’s Executive Order plus memorandums did nothing to help Americans financially in their urgent need to pay their bills, feed their families, stay home, and stay safe during this pandemic.

Trump’s answer to the additional $600 unemployment benefits that expired on July 31st seem helpful at first….but again, are not at all. His memorandum states that the federal government will still pay individuals on unemployment an additional $300/week on top of their normal unemployment check with each state paying $100/week for a total of $400 weekly. The $300 from the Federal government is to come out of the Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Relief Fund, normally reserved for emergencies like hurricanes, tornadoes, or wild fires – all of which have seemingly gotten MUCH worse recently, thank you Global Warming. Again, sounds alright, better than nothing. Except it is practically nothing when you look at it practically. Most states are sinking deeper and deeper into debt and also need federal intervention, they can’t afford to then pay each unemployed citizen $100 per week!! That’s assuming that each state is readily available for this more complex system when a chunk of them currently require massive updates to said system. If it worked and states agreed to pay the 25% of each person’s weekly unemployment check, it could still take weeks or months to get every state’s system updated and capable which helps no one now. Therefore, a lot of talk without any practical means to enact his orders, and again no help for our people struggling to make it through even to next week.
Trump’s Executive Order plus memorandums did nothing to help unemployed Americans secure their life-line in additional benefits even though the pandemic hasn’t gotten any better in America.

The last memorandum is not as useless as the rest, Student Loan deferrals. If you are currently paying on a student loan, all payments have been pushed back till January 1, 2021 and no late fees can be amassed during this time either. This is a continuation of the CARES Act and is helping people keep some monthly money in their pockets without damaging their credit. Again, as of now full payments are expected to be paid starting January 1st but it does save some money for some.
Trump’s Executive Order plus memorandums did a little something for citizens paying on federal student loans.
I guess these gestures may look good to some Americans but the rest of us demand real relief and aid during this unprecedented time. For the small number of us that research these current events it is easy to see this as a polling tactic with the hopes of garnering votes to his continued reign of dismantling a constitutional America. This Executive Order, etc. may see some legal accusations based off Trump’s, “…rejecting Congress’s power of the purse,” states a constitutional law expert at Georgetown Law. The President doesn’t have the power to give financial relief to agencies or individuals, that is a power solely given to Congress and they have yet to agree on any type of aid or relief as of now. Technically Trump isn’t actually taking federal money and giving it to anyone, he is either redirecting funds already out there and still being used from the CARES Act, or asking if other people can look into finding more money. The $44 billion he wants to use towards the federal $300/week for unemployment (here’s hoping for weak hurricanes this season) will likely run out by October and the pandemic will surely not be done with us by then. We need more long-term plans that can be put into action today! I haven’t even mentioned all the Americans that are contracting this highly contagious virus or the 162k American’s that have already died in the past six months. Those people will also be viable for possible evictions and are most likely on unemployment due to the required multiple weeks of quarantining associated with a positive test result. Best case scenario, they don’t end up in the hospital with machines breathing for them. Best case scenario, they don’t have long lasting negative effects from the virus. Best case scenario, they don’t die. How can we ask these specific Americans to stay inside, and contain the virus to themselves while also worrying about their giant lack of income, potentially no place to go once the 30 days are up, and no government intervention? A study published this week by a group of housing, legal, and eviction experts, estimated that between 30-40 million Americans will be evicted (without needed government intervention), in the upcoming months, compared to the pre-pandemic average of under 4 million annual American evictions. We need to help our people before it’s too late.

Trumps Executive Order plus memorandums overall did almost nothing to positively impact our struggling country and her people. The Democrats, meanwhile, are making a conscious decision here to continue with the roundabout negotiations instead of compromising in order to help our people and keep Trump from stealing powers white potentially looking good to still on-the-fence voters! Sadly, Trump left out the few agreed upon items, and instead just took a small break from golfing in New Jersey to sign official empty gestures while the country suffocates.

https://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/The_Eviction_Crisis_080720.pdf
https://www.federalregister.gov/presidential-documents/executive-orders/donald-trump/2020
https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/
https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/memorandum-deferring-payroll-tax-obligations-light-ongoing-covid-19-disaster/
https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/memorandum-authorizing-needs-assistance-program-major-disaster-declarations-related-coronavirus-disease-2019/
https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-fighting-spread-covid-19-providing-assistance-renters-homeowners/
https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/memorandum-continued-student-loan-payment-relief-covid-19-pandemic/
https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1582133514823-be4368438bd042e3b60f5cec6b377d17/Stafford_June_2019_508.pdf
https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/guide-emergency-powers-and-their-use
https://www.npr.org/2019/02/15/695270852/what-presidential-powers-trump-has-during-a-national-emergency
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/cases-in-us.html
https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/cares 

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