Washington, D.C. August 8, 2020 – Today, after the U.S. Senate majority failed to even vote on any legislation to address the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump signed executive orders purportedly regarding unemployment benefits, eviction protections, student loans, and a payroll tax deferral. Following the announcement of the orders, Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:
It’s been nearly three months since the U.S. House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act on May 15. For most of those three months, President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and their allies of Congress have looked away while millions of people got sick from the coronavirus, tens of thousands died, and millions filed for unemployment. It’s unconscionable that the White House and Republican Senate leaders didn’t even begin working on another relief package until just days before millions of people were to lose unemployment benefits and eviction protections. What Sen. McConnell and the White House proposed is incredibly insufficient for the scale of this crisis.
Today, President Trump circumvented Congress to issue executive orders from his country club in front of a crowd of wealthy golfers, before jetting off to a Hamptons fundraiser. His actions not only raise serious legal and operational issues, but also—even if implemented—will likely make millions of people worse off than they were just a few weeks ago. In announcing his payroll tax plan, Trump made clear that he wants to permanently end a major source of funding for the Social Security program. At the same time, his approach would allow corporations to sit on billions of dollars that would otherwise finance Social Security, without being clear on when or how workers would get any relief. Trump also announced that unemployed workers should immediately see a one-third decrease to their income at a time when they can scarcely afford one. This would only be possible if states diverted money that is already insufficient for their education and public health needs, and it would last only a few weeks, even as the economic crisis shows no signs of abating. The order on student loans leaves out up to 9 million borrowers and does nothing to extend the critical benefits for essential workers, such as teachers and nurses, provided under the CARES Act. His insufficient action on housing will not be enough to help those experiencing homelessness or the millions of renters trying to keep a roof over their heads.
Attempting to solve a once-in-a-century crisis with a few strokes of a pen on a Saturday afternoon is not leadership; it is putting forth fake solutions to very real and desperate problems. What is needed now is for the White House and the Senate to do what the House did months ago, and put forth a relief bill to meet the moment.