Trump restores payments to jobless and breaks Congress impasse

Donald Trump

US President Donald Trump signed executive orders partly restoring enhanced unemployment payments to the tens of millions of Americans who have lost their jobs in the coronavirus pandemic, as negotiations in Congress broke down after almost two weeks of talks.

Donald Trump said the orders would provide an extra US$400 per week in unemployment payments, US$200 less than the extra US$600 per week passed earlier in the coronavirus pandemic crisis, AP News reported.

“This is the money they need, this is the money they want, this gives them an incentive to go back to work,” Donald Trump said, adding 25% of the extra payments would be paid by the states.

Trump also said he was suspending the 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. He said the suspension would apply to people making less than US$100,000 per year. His orders would also stop evictions from rental housing that has federal financial backing and extend zero percent interest on federally financed student loans.

The US Constitution gives Congress authority over federal spending, but Trump has sidestepped Congress on spending before, declaring a national emergency on the US-Mexico border to shift billions of dollars from the defence budget to pay for a wall he promised during his 2016 election campaign. Congress passed legislation to stop him, but the Republican-controlled Senate did not pass the legislation – a scene that would happen again with less than 90 days to go before the November 3 presidential election.

Nancy Pelosi, Donald Trump
Nancy Pelosi, Democrats leader in the House, defended Congress’ inaction. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, leader of the opposition Democratic Party, defended her party’s actions in the negotiations and claimed that Trump’s actions are “illusions,” not lasting solutions.

“What the president did is unconstitutional slop,” Pelosi said on Fox News Sunday, adding that the orders, rather than effectively getting more money to the unemployed and halting evictions, “are illusions”.

Host Chris Wallace countered that Trump made the announcement amid an extended impasse over the next round of coronavirus relief in Congress.

“Having no bill at all, not coming to any agreement, wasn’t going to provide any of that either,” he said.

Trump did not rule out a return to negotiations with Congress.

“I’m not saying they’re not going to come back and negotiate,” he said. “Hopefully, we can do something with them at a later date.”

More than 20 million people have been infected with COVID-19, with the average still over 220,000 infections daily. The highest number of reported new cases is now in India (65,156), followed by the US (57,071) and Brazil (46,305). Of concern is that Greece, which invited the world to holiday on its islands, reported 203 new cases of COVID-19, its highest daily tally since the start of the outbreak in the country, and the UK reported 1,062 new positive tests, the highest daily rise in new COVID-19 infections since late June.

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