The Mike Hosking Breakfast •

Richard Arnold: Donald Trump signs executive orders to provide pandemic relief

The Mike Hosking Breakfast

With stimulus talks stalled, President Donald Trump announced he would go around Congress to deliver aid to Americans affected by the pandemic.
But a close read of the actual text of executive actions he signed Saturday suggests that even if they are deemed constitutional, they will not quickly deliver the aid Trump promised. They may not deliver much at all.
Here's a breakdown of the actions, the many strings attached and questions about what they actually accomplish.
Unemployment benefits
Trump described the memorandum signed Saturday as an action providing "an additional or extra $400 a week and expanded benefits."
But in reality, the additional unemployment aid is more complicated than the White House acknowledged and experts say it may not help a lot of the unemployed.
Under the previous unemployment benefit passed by Congress, millions of Americans received an additional blanket $600 a week from the federal government on top of their state unemployment benefits.
States have to chip in. Now, under Trump's measure, the federal government is requiring states to pick up the tab for 25% ($100) of the as much as $400 additional benefit each person may be able to receive weekly in additional aid. On top of that, a state must agree to enter into this financial agreement with the federal government for any unemployed person living there to get any of the additional benefits.
States are in dire financial straits. Many states have already asked the federal government for major financial help. Several experts told CNN there are major questions about how many states may be able to afford the extra cost.
If a state says that it does not have the funds or does want to enter into the agreement with the federal government, the unemployed person in that state receives zero dollars in extra federal benefits (they would still receive the normal state unemployment insurance).
In fact, states have asked Congress to provide them with an additional $500 billion to help shore up their budgets, which have been crushed by the loss of tax revenue amid the pandemic. This has been one of the main points of contention between Democrats, who want to allocate additional aid, and Republicans, who don't want to bail out what they say are badly managed states.
The millions of Americans who've filed for jobless benefits also have drained several states' unemployment benefits trust funds. Already, 10 states have borrowed nearly $20 billion from the Treasury Department to cover their share of payments, which typically last 26 weeks.
Requires a new system. Because Congress has not authorized an extension of extra federal unemployment assistance, the state will have to set up an entirely new system to deliver the additional aid.
"The state has to enter an agreement saying not only can they pay the benefit, but that they have some ability to administer the benefit," said Michelle Evermore, an unemployment expert at the National Employment Law Project.
Building a brand new program could take states months to accomplish, Evermore said. She added Trump needed to do it this way because "in order for states to administer a benefit it has to be authorized by Congress, so they can't use their administrative systems to pay a benefit that hasn't been authorized by Congress."
Few will be helped. Evermore, one of the nation's leading experts on unemployment, told CNN she considered the chances of this effort helping many of the newly unemployed due to Covid-19 "low."
Lastly, according to the memorandum, an individual can only receive the $300 federal benefit if he or she first qualifies for $100 in aid from their state. Evermore said this will cut out a large group of people. "There are so many problems with people getting a benefit under this," she said.
The executive action signed by Trump does not reinstate the previous moratorium on evictions, which lapsed in July. The original ban covered mortgages which were backed by federal funds. The nonprofit Ur...
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