Daily US Times: President Donald Trump has signed four executive orders partly restoring enhanced unemployment payments to the tens of millions of American citizens who lost jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic, as the United States marked a grim milestone of five million cases.
This week, negotiations broke down between the White House and top Democrats in Congress about how best to help American people to cope with the heavy human and economic toll of the crisis. More than 160,000 people died because of Covid-19 across the country.
On Saturday, Trump said that the executive orders would provide an extra $400 per week in unemployment payments, less than the $600 per week passed earlier in the crisis. As the US Constitution gives Congress authority over federal spending, some of the measures were likely to face legal challenges.
“This is the money they need, this is the money they want, this gives them an incentive to go back to work,” Mr Trump said of the lower payments. The Republican President said 25 percent of it would be paid by states, whose budgets have been hard hit by the crisis.
Republicans have argued that higher payments were a disincentive for unemployed people to try to return to work, though Federal Reserve officials and economists disputed that assertion.
‘Classic Donald Trump con’
Trump’s move to take relief measures out of the hands of Congress drew immediate criticism from some Democrats.
Senator Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said: “Donald Trump is trying to distract from his failure to extend the $600 federal boost for 30 million unemployed workers by issuing illegal executive order.”
“This scheme is a classic Donald Trump con: playacting at leadership while robbing people of the support they desperately need.”
House of Representatives, which Democrats hold the majority, passed a coronavirus support package in May which the Republican-led Senate ignored.
Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, called the orders a “series of half-baked measures” and accused Trump of putting Social Security “at grave risk” by delaying the collection of payroll taxes that pay for the programme.
Trump, who is facing reelection in November, also said he was suspending collection of payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security and other federal programmes, an idea that he has repeatedly raised but has been rejected by both parties in Congress.
The US President said the suspension would apply to people making less than $100,000 per year.
His executive orders would also stop evictions from rental housing that has federal financial backing and extend zero percent interest on federally financed student loans.
Trump initially played down the threat of Covid-19 crisis and has drawn criticism for inconsistent messages on public health steps such as masks and social distancing.
On Saturday, he spoke to reporters at his New Jersey golf club, in a room that featured a crowd of cheering supporters.
The news of Trump’s decision comes as according to a Reuters News Agency tally, the country’s coronavirus cases surpassed five million. The country has also recorded more than 162,000 deaths, the highest in the world.
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