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BEDMINSTER, NJ — President Donald Trump on Saturday signed a series of executive orders intended to ease the ongoing economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The orders came after negotiations with Democrats on a new economic relief package collapsed on Friday.
Perhaps most crucially, Trump moved to extend supplemental federal unemployment benefits for millions of Americans out of work during the outbreak. Congress allowed those payments to lapse on Aug. 1, and negotiations to extend them were mired in partisan gridlock.
Through Trump's order, benefits will be lowered from $600 to $400 per week.
"It's $400 a week, and we're doing it without the Democrats," Trump said, asking states to cover 25 percent of the cost. It was not immediately clear where the federal portion would come from — though the president suggested he was looking to use unspent funds from previous coronavirus relief bills — and Trump said it would be up to states to determine how much, if any of it to fund.
Another order directs the U.S. Treasury to allow employers to defer payment of employee payroll taxes through the end of 2020 for Americans earning less than $100,000 annually, Trump said, adding the deferment is expected to be retroactive to Aug. 1.
Two additional orders would ban evictions in federal housing and pause student loan payments through the end of the year.
Trump announced the orders during a news conference at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Talks on the newest coronavirus relief package collapsed heading into the weekend, signaling more hardship for millions of people who lost enhanced jobless benefits and threatening further damage for an economy pummeled by the still-raging coronavirus.
Following the stalemate, White House officials recommended that Trump move forward with executive actions in place of a Congress-approved aid package, though it remains unclear whether Trump has the legal power to do so.
Speaking in front of golf club members who gathered in a gilded ballroom to see him, Trump vowed on Friday,"If Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage, I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need."
Aides had suggested to reporters prior to Saturday's news conference that the president might sign executive orders, despite questions about their legality and potential effectiveness.
Many were hoping to frame the orders as a sign Trump was taking action in a time of crisis, according to the Associated Press. However, it would also reinforce the view that the president, who took office declaring he was a dealmaker, was unable to steer the process to an agreement.
Trump said Saturday the orders “will take care of pretty much this entire situation, as we know it.”
Still, the orders are far smaller in scope than congressional legislation, and even aides acknowledged they didn't meet the needs of all that was required, AP reported.