On August 8, 2020, President Donald Trump signed one executive order and three memorandum regarding various forms of economic relief in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in contrast to what many have reported; that all were executive orders.
An executive order is directed to, and govern actions by, federal government officials and agencies, and must cite the legal authority the president has to issue it. Executive orders, according to the Library of Congress, have the force of law if their topic “is founded on the authority of the President derived from the Constitution or statute.”
Contrasting this, an executive memorandum is similar, but is not required by law to be reported in the Federal Register, and does not need to cite the legal authority the president has to issue it.
- The Executive Order on Fighting the Spread of COVID-19 by Providing Assistance to Renters and Homeowners calls for the Health and Human Services Secretary and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director to “consider whether any measures temporarily halting residential evictions of any tenants for failure to pay rent are reasonably necessary.” The executive order does not provide financial relief to renters.
- The Memorandum on Authorizing the Other Needs Assistance Program for Major Disaster Declarations Related to Coronavirus Disease authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to make available up to $44 billion dollars in unemployment aid. The Memorandum calls for the aid to resume at an amount of $400.00 per week, for those who qualify, and to last until December 6, 2020, or until the aid runs out. The federal government will provide $300.00 of that aid, and states must contribute the remaining $100.00.
- The Memorandum on Deferring Payroll Tax Obligations in Light of the Ongoing COVID-19 Disaster delays payroll tax collection for those who make less than $4,000.00 every two weeks. Specifically, the Memorandum instructs the U.S. Treasury to cease collection of payroll taxes from September 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020. The Memorandum additionally instructs the Secretary of the Treasury to “explore avenues, including legislation, to eliminate the obligation to pay the taxes deferred pursuant to the implementation of this memorandum.”
- The Memorandum on Continued Student Loan Payment Relief During the COVID-19 Pandemic waives interest on federal student loans through the rest of the calendar year, and allows holders of those loans to delay payments until December 31, 2020.
Congress has indicated that it will be on recess for the rest of August; as such, it is unlikely that Congress will pass a new economic stimulus package before September. Due to potential judicial challenges, it is unknown which parts of these Presidential actions will be implemented, so check back frequently for further updates.