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Here's what President Trump's 4 executive orders mean for you

Over the weekend, Donald Trump signed executive orders aimed at extending pandemic relief efforts. But are they constitutional? #TheQandA team gets answers.

WASHINGTON — Over the weekend, President Donald Trump signed several executive orders aimed at extending pandemic relief efforts, after Congress failed to reach a deal. But now people are wondering what kind of relief do the executive orders give, how will this impact states and are they even constitutional. WUSA9's #TheQandA team got answers. 

Q: What do the executive orders cover? 

A: On Saturday, President Trump signed four executive orders dealing with unemployment benefits, payroll taxes, student loans and eviction protections.

At the end of July, the extra $600 unemployment benefit from the federal government ran out leaving millions of people with just the state-supplied portion of their benefits. 

The president’s orders extend the weekly unemployment bonus, but at a reduced level of $400 per week. The order stipulates that states will need to cover 25% of that $400 weekly benefit.

The second thing that the orders provide are a payroll tax holiday through the end of the year for Americans earning less than $100,000 per year.

That’s means that the portion of your pay that is taken out for Social Security won’t be taken out, meaning your paycheck will be a little bit bigger and funding for those programs will be reduced.

If re-elected in November, Trump said he would look to extend the deferral on payroll taxes. He also mentioned terminating the tax altogether.

RELATED: Trump signs executive orders for unemployment money, payroll tax deferral

The third thing that the orders do are defer student loan payments through 2020.

And finally,  the orders extend the federal protections from evictions.


The orders about evictions have spurred a lot of questions from our viewers so WUSA9 spoke to constitutional law expert and professor of law at the University of Baltimore Kim Wehle.   

Q: Will the orders stop people from being evicted from their homes?

Kim: "No, it doesn't give that heft behind a tenant who doesn't want to go to their landlord and say: 'Listen, you can't put me out on the street.' Nothing in that order keeps people in their homes, one extra day. Only Congress at this point can do that."

Q: Since President Trump signed the executive order with his version of the coronavirus relief bill, what happens if the senate does actually pass a bipartisan relief bill? Will that negate Trump's orders?

Kim: "Yes, it would negate it because the Constitution gives lawmaking power to the legislature... to Congress very, very clearly. There's nothing in the constitution mentioning executive orders. The reason they're basically tolerated and respected is because since George Washington, presidents have just used them, and they use them to actually make laws, but that actually hasn't been squarely challenged in the United States Supreme Court. But clearly, if it came to an executive order, and a piece of legislation that is passed through Congress, the legislation would supersede the order."

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Q: Does that make executive orders unconstitutional?

Kim: "Possibly, and I say possibly because there's a lot of gray area in the Constitution. We have things that are really express, but a lot of the other stuff is unclear. So we really wouldn't know whether a particular executive order is unconstitutional until the United States Supreme Court, sort of, identified how that gray area should come out. I think it's possible there's an argument based on the text itself of the Constitution that [the] president shouldn't be making laws with executive orders, but that has never really been squarely resolved." 

Q: Do the president's executive orders supersede the HEROES act? What does the order do in terms of actually getting funding to constituents?

Kim: "The president cannot come up with new money in the way the HEROES  Act does. Congress, in addition to having lawmaking power, has what's called appropriations power, which means Congress decides how to spend money and not the president. The president might get a bucket of money and then can decide who gets what within that bucket based on what Congress [allows]. But the president is not approved to pool new funding from the federal treasury in a way that doesn't first go to Congress. The president’s executive order, basically says to the federal government, go and look at existing laws and see what we can do for evictions. That's no different really than we were last week, where people within government can see what the law already says. With respect to unemployment, there is a federal statute that allows the federal government to give unemployment benefits, but it requires a percentage to come from the states." 

RELATED: GOP unveils 'HEALS' Act with another round of $1,200 stimulus checks


While Trump said that if re-elected, he would terminate the payroll tax that funds social security and medicare, Wehle explained that he does not have the power to do that. Only congress can eliminate those programs.

Q: How are states feeling about the need to pony up on 25% of the reduced unemployment benefit?

A: The president is asking states to use federal emergency funds to pay that 25%, and according to Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D), a lot of states have already allocated most, if not all, of those funds. WUSA9 spoke to Van Hollen and he believes the president is pitting one group of Americans against another when it comes to allocating relief funding.

"They're asking governors to rob constituent Peter to help constituent Paul," Van Hollen said. "What do I mean by that? The emergency funds are given to the states to help them buy personal protective equipment with testing to try to reopen school safely or the economy more safely, to provide emergency relief to constituents who may be losing their homes. They're there for a purpose and so what President Trump is saying is, if you have any money left over -- which they may not -- we want you to take it away from these important needs for your constituents to help people with another need. What we are saying -- what democrats in the Senate are saying -- is we can help both sets of Americans. We can help people who need the PPP or testing, and we can continue to provide an additional $600 to people who are out of work."

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