On Saturday, August 8, 2020, President Trump took executive actions, sidestepping Congress, to extend certain federal pandemic economic relief. The executive actions were issued after Congressional negotiations over additional pandemic economic relief appeared to have collapsed.
One of these executive actions would address additional unemployment relief by establishing a new lost wages assistance program that would provide a $400 weekly payment to eligible claimants beginning with weeks of unemployment ending August 1, 2020. Individuals would be eligible for these $400 payments if they receive at least $100 per week in any of the following types of benefits: unemployment compensation, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Extended Benefits, Short-Time Compensation, Trade Adjustment Allowance, or Self-Employment Assistance. The $400 would be comprised of a $300 federal contribution, diverted by FEMA from the Disaster Relief Fund, and a required $100 State match, proposed to come from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) for States. Some States say they do not know whether they can participate because of their own State budget shortfalls caused by the emergency and because use of the CRF would divert funds from necessary COVID-19 testing programs.
These executive actions came approximately one week after Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefits, which provided unemployed individuals with an additional $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits, expired on July 31, 2020.
The other three executive actions taken on August 8, 2020 purport to address deferral of payroll tax obligations, assistance to renters and homeowners, and student loan payment relief, but it is still unclear what effects they may have. For example, the executive order concerning renters and homeowners does not provide deferral of obligations of renters and homeowners. Rather it directs federal agencies to “consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary…”.
It is not clear what authority the President has to take these executive actions. Therefore, it is also not clear what immediate effect, if any, these executive actions will have.