What you need to know about the executive orders signed by President Trump
On August 8, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order extending certain aspects of COVID-19 relief in the absence of a new bill from Congress. The executive order includes several measures to protect individuals as provisions of the CARES Act expire or have expired.
Here’s what was in the order:
Payroll tax delay – The order authorizes the Treasury to consider methods to defer the employee share of Social Security taxes (IRC section 3101(a) and Railroad Retirement Act taxes under section 3201(a)) for employees earning up to $104,000 per year ($4,000 biweekly) for a period beginning Sept. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020. No interest, penalty, or additional assessment would be charged on the deferred amount. This will feel like a tax cut for a few weeks because workers will end up with larger paychecks while the tax is not collected. But it is technically a tax deferral, meaning the taxes will still be due at a later date. At this point, this is not effective. It means the Treasury can exercise authority and explore ways to achieve forgiveness on the deferred amounts, such as legislation. While nothing will be done until the Treasury issues guidance, employers will need to be mindful of this as the liability of this payment could fall on them depending on the final rule.
Unemployment benefits – The $600 per week unemployment benefit authorized by the CARES Act expired on July 31. The executive order retroactively authorizes $400 per week from Aug. 1; however, states must contribute $100 and the remaining $300 would come from the federal government. The funding for the federal portion would come from the FEMA Disaster Relief Funds and would continue until the earlier of Dec. 6, 2020, or a drop in the Fund balance to below $25 billion. The state portion is to come from federal funds already distributed to the states. Questions of whether the FEMA funds can be used for this purpose are still outstanding.
Evictions – The evictions portion of the executive order asks the secretary of HHS and director of CDC to consider whether halting residential evictions is reasonably necessary to help prevent further spread of COVID-19 and also authorizes the Treasury Secretary and HUD Secretary to consider potential financial assistance for renters. The CARES Act banned evictions through July 25 for properties with federal mortgage programs or HUD funds.
Student loans – The student loan interest deferral enacted by the CARES Act is set to expire Sept. 30, 2020. The executive order would waive student loan interest until Dec. 31, 2020, for loans held by the Department of Education only.
Final guidance is required from the respective agencies before some of these measures can be enacted.
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