President Trump has issued an executive order calling for the extension of the weekly federal unemployment benefits initially earmarked within the CARES Act. However, eligible individuals will now receive $400 per week, in addition to their states’ respective unemployment aid.
The president signed off on the executive order concerning the renewed federal unemployment benefits – as well as three other coronavirus-relief executive orders – this afternoon, and official copies of the documents were recently published online.
Earlier this week, we continued our coverage of negotiations between the White House and congressional leaders on a new economic aid package, including additional stimulus checks and unemployment assistance that many hard-hit artists and music industry professionals stand to benefit from. After much back and forth, however, the prolonged talks fell through, and Trump then opted to bypass Congress and take action via executive orders, which do not require approval from legislators.
As once-off compensation must be allocated by Congress, though, the orders don’t include new stimulus checks. That doesn’t mean that second stimulus checks aren’t being issued. But it does mean that Congress must agree on a bill for the checks to be mailed.
The executive order extending federal unemployment benefits indicates that the funds will chiefly derive from the Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), which currently contains over $70 billion. The federal government will provide $300 weekly payments to unemployed persons out of this fund; the executive order calls on states to cover the remaining $100 by drawing from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), a $150 billion tranche established by the CARES Act for certain pandemic-related state and local government expenditures.
Specifically, over $80 billion remains in the CRF, and states will now put the funds towards their $100 portion of the $400 weekly federal unemployment bonuses. (If they choose to do so, states can utilize different cash yet, outside the CRF, for the $100 bonuses. Moreover, the order notes that states should “identify funds to be spent without a Federal match” for when the federal coverage concludes.)
In short, unemployed people currently receiving state-level assistance will also begin receiving $400 in weekly federal unemployment benefits soon. The payments will cease when the Disaster Relief Fund depletes to $25 billion or on December 6th (whichever comes first). Plus, in the event that legislation for “supplemental Federal unemployment compensation” is implemented, the package would supplant the executive order.
Eligibility-wise, it seems that the $400 weekly federal unemployment benefits carry the same requirements as the previous $600 weekly bonuses. Anyone drawing $100 or more in weekly unemployment, including self-employed persons, will acquire the new federal aid.
The aforementioned three other executive orders center on federal student loan payments, rent and mortgage bills, and the payroll tax. The CARES Act-ordered pause on both federal student loan payment deadlines and the loans’ interest accrual is set to expire on September 30th, and the related executive order extends the deferments (and the interest halt) until at least December 31st.
Next, the order pertaining to foreclosure and eviction prevention details the steps various federal agencies will take to assist homeowners and renters who are struggling to make ends meet. As most of these measures mention executive departments, more information (from the department heads) is likely forthcoming.
The fourth and final executive order issued today calls on the Treasury to defer (but not eliminate) the payroll tax for those whose biweekly pay is “generally is less than $4,000.” Furthermore, the order states that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “shall explore avenues, including legislation, to eliminate the obligation to pay the taxes deferred.”
As for second stimulus checks, the timetable for disbursement of the direct payments now appears to be moving.
Earlier, we reported that second stimulus checks were likely to arrive by August 24th. But keeping that timetable will require quick resolution by Democrats and Republicans over stimulus bill disagreements.
Stay tuned for more developments.