President Trump signed executive orders on Saturday to provide more aid to people hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, including extending $400 weekly unemployment benefits and granting a payroll tax holiday for workers making less than $100,000, as he accused congressional Democrats of “stonewalling” negotiations.
“Through these four actions, my administration will provide immediate and vital relief to Americans struggling at this difficult time,” the president said at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Mr. Trump also said he’s weighing additional income tax relief and capital gains tax cuts.
The president’s dramatic action, which is likely to encounter legal challenges, suspends payroll taxes until the end of the year, retroactive to Aug.1, for people earning up to $100,000 per year; provides enhanced federal unemployment benefits of $400 per week through December; defers student loan payments and forgives interest; and renews a moratorium on housing evictions.
Mr. Trump’s move came after two weeks of negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York failed to produce a deal. Democrats were seeking a package of aid totaling about $3.5 trillion; the White House and Senate Republicans were proposing relief totaling about $1.5 trillion.
The president said the Democrats’ bill was backed by presumptive Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden, and included measures such as banning voter ID and providing stimulus checks for illegal aliens, that are “completely unrelated” to the pandemic.
“What does this have to do with the coronavirus?” Mr. Trump asked. “They want to bail out states that have been badly run by Democrats. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have chosen to hold this vital assistance hostage on behalf of very extreme partisan demands. They want to steal an election.”
He said the payroll tax holiday will be made permanent if he’s reelected.
“If I’m victorious on Nov. 3, I plan to forgive these taxes and make permanent cuts to the payroll tax,” Mr. Trump said. “Biden probably won’t be doing that.”
The president said states will be asked to cover 25% of the extra unemployment benefits. Federal benefits of $600 per week, which had been added to regular state jobless benefits, expired last week.
He said Democrats are “actively blocking” funding to help K-12 schools reopen safely, extra money for the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses and direct payments to most families averaging $3,400.