Will Trump’s executive order affect stimulus checks?

Cash-strapped Americans await answers on stimulus relief payments

On Saturday, President Donald Trump issued four executive orders to bring about relief to financially strapped Americans in the wake of the continued COVID-19 pandemic. Though there were several economic relief actions proposed, there was no mention of the much-anticipated $1,200 stimulus checks.

The Trump administration is actively working with congressional powers to provide answers on the next round of stimulus relief, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Monday. The discussions with Mnuchin, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) have remained unsuccessful thus far. While the Democrats foresee the $3 trillion HEROES Act as the answer to resolving the country’s financial grief, the Republicans have continued to rally behind their $1 trillion HEALS Act.

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“If we can get a fair deal, we’re willing to do it this week,” Mnuchin said during an interview with CNBC.

To circumvent these beleaguered negotiations, Trump took actions on relief related to student debt, unemployment and assistance to homeowners and renters in his orders Saturday. The four areas of action were:

  • Extending the federal unemployment benefit, which expired July 31, and reducing it to $400 a week, down from $600. The federal government will pay 75%, with states expected to come up with the remaining 25%. This weekly benefit is in addition to regular state unemployment benefits, which vary in amount depending on the state.
  • Pause the payroll tax until the end of the year. This benefit would only apply to those making less than roughly $100,000 per year.
  • Suspend interest on federal student loans and payments through the end of the year, extending this delay past the current date of Sept. 30.
  • Call for an extension to the current eviction ban, specifically asking the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “consider” whether an extension to the current eviction ban is needed and to identify “any and all available federal funds” that could be used to prevent renters from eviction.
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What about stimulus checks?

Though the president could take action by extending or pausing certain benefits to Americans, he does not have the power to administer the stimulus checks single-handedly. In order for the checks to come, Americans will have to wait on Congress to pass its much-debated relief package.

Funds for federal programs need to be authorized through legislation passed by Congress.

“The Constitution mandates that only Congress has the power of the purse — the president cannot unilaterally tax and spend,” Kris Cox, senior tax policy analyst for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, told CNBC.

Trump, on several occasions, has voiced his support for a second round of stimulus checks. In fact, he has said the stimulus checks should be “larger” than the $1,200 proposed by the HEALS Act. Earlier this summer, he told Fox Business News he would support the sizable stimulus checks.

“I do. I support it, but it has to be done properly,” he said of introducing another stimulus check. “I support actually larger numbers than the Democrats.”

Because of the breakdown among Congress members, more than $100 billion to help reopen schools, a fresh round of $1,200 direct payments to most people and hundreds of billions of dollars for state and local governments to help them avoid furloughing workers could be at risk.

With no clear sign that the decision-makers on either side of the aisle will compromise, Americans will for now have the unemployment, student loan and home protection relief as their primary way of thwarting further financial impact from the ongoing pandemic.

Mnuchin said the renewal of a $600 per-week pandemic jobless boost and huge demands by Democrats for aid to state and local governments are the key areas where they are stuck.

“There’s a lot of areas of compromise,” he said late last week. “I think if we can reach an agreement on state and local and unemployment, we will reach an overall deal. And if we can’t, we can’t.”