Trump signs coronavirus relief orders circumventing Congress

The US President Donald Trump signed executive orders on Saturday partly restoring enhanced unemployment payments to the tens of millions of Americans who lost jobs in the coronavirus pandemic, as polls showed a large majority of voters unhappy with his handling of the crisis.

The four measures marked a presidential show of strength after Trump's Republican party and White House team failed to agree with opposition Democrats in Congress on a new stimulus package aimed at stopping vulnerable Americans from falling through the cracks.

"We've had it and we're going to save American jobs and provide relief to the American workers," Trump said at a press conference at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he was spending the weekend.

Trump said his decision to circumvent Congress with executive actions would mean relief money getting "rapidly distributed."

In reality, his measures are likely to face court challenges because Congress controls federal spending, and in any case they may add up to less money than initially appears. His Democratic rival Joe Biden called Trump's orders Saturday "a series of half-baked measures."

One key Trump order promises to get $400 a week added to Americans' unemployment benefits, while two others offer some protection from evictions and relief for student loans. The $400 assistance is below the $600 offered in the expired stimulus package. It may also end up amounting only to $300 extra a week, because Trump said $100 would be provided from state, not federal, budgets and only if states were willing or able to do so.

A fourth measure, opposed by many Republicans as well as Democrats, ordered a freeze in payroll taxes. Democrats, Republicans and White House negotiators had worked all last week without coming close to a deal on an overall congressional relief bill for those struggling to make ends meet in the world's richest economy.

Democrats pushed for a massive new $3 trillion stimulus package aimed at propping up the economy, repairing the tattered postal system in time for the presidential election and giving the unemployed an extra $600 a week. Democrats later announced they could drop the price tag but refused the Republicans' offer of a $1 trillion package.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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