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Trump signs orders aimed at extending some pandemic relief after Congress fails to reach a deal

US President Donald Trump speaks during the renewed briefing of the Coronavirus Task Force in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on July 21, 2020, in Washington, DC.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump on Saturday signed a series of executive orders aimed to expand coronavirus economic relief to Americans.

The president’s four orders extend unemployment benefits, provide a payroll tax holiday, defer student loan payments through 2020 and extend the federal moratorium on evictions as people struggle during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“We’re going to save American jobs and provide relief to the American workers,” Trump said at a press conference in Bedminster, New Jersey. 

Trump said he is providing a payroll tax holiday to Americans earning less than $100,000 per year as well as instructing the Treasury Department to allow employers to defer payment of the employee portion of certain payroll taxes. 

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said they would recommend that Trump take executive action after their coronavirus aid talks with Democratic leaders made little progress. 

Trump’s move will quickly face a legal challenge. Continuing the programs would require federal funding, which Congress controls. 

After relief discussions ground to a halt on Friday, the Trump administration wanted to show it could act without Congress. It could be part negotiating tactic and part political play: Trump aims to boost his fortunes in an election where his failure to contain the virus has hurt his chances of winning. 

Officials in Washington have faced pressure to boost an economy wrecked by the pandemic and inject resources into a health-care system struggling to handle waves of infections. The $600 per week federal unemployment insurance, on top of what people normally get from states, expired at the end of July.

The eviction moratorium also lapsed in late July. The combination of the two lifelines ending left millions wondering how they will afford food and stay in their homes. 

Congress and the White House failed to extend the programs as they tried to negotiate a broader pandemic aid package. Jobless benefits were among the biggest sticking points. 

Democrats have insisted they will not support a bill that does not extend the $600 per week benefit. Senate Republicans released a bill that would set the payment at $200 per week through September. Then, it would change to 70% wage replacement. 

The White House previously offered a one-week extension of the $600 benefit and reportedly floated a $400 a week payment into December. Democrats refused the proposals. 

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

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