Among the flurry of executive orders President Donald Trump issued over the weekend to address the pandemic, none involved the one key support that both Republicans and Democrats agree on: a second round of stimulus checks.
While the HEROES Act — the Democratic stimulus proposal — and the HEALS Act — the Republicans’ plan — both outline similar ideas of what the next round of stimulus checks should look like, the president couldn’t legally include this popular relief aid in his executive orders.
“Fundamentally, the president doesn't have the authority to do that,” Seth Hanlon, a tax policy expert at the Center for American Progress, told Yahoo Money. “It would be blatantly unconstitutional if he did.”
The president can’t draw money out of the Treasury that Congress hasn't yet appropriated. For instance, the money he’s using for the unemployment insurance executive order is reprogrammed funds that Congress has already appropriated for disaster relief.
That executive order directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to create a new program for unemployment using $44 billion in disaster relief funds. But he couldn’t use that money for purposes such as stimulus checks which, in practice, are tax rebates, according to Hanlon.
“The rules that Congress provided for the FEMA money do allow some flexibility on using it to provide aid to the unemployed,” Hanlon said. “It’s clearly in the domain of Congress — not the president — to authorize the direct payment of money out of the Treasury.”
Not only is sourcing the money for the stimulus checks potentially difficult, but so is finding enough money to pay for a second round. The first round was worth over $270 billion, while the appropriated fund from FEMA is just $44 billion.
“There's no pot of money that he could even take from that would be anywhere near sufficient to pay the stimulus checks,” Hanlon said, “even if it were legal, which is almost certainly not.”