Coronavirus stimulus checks: President Trump calls for 'direct payments' to 'all Americans'

Denitsa Tsekova
·Reporter
·4 min read

President Trump called for additional stimulus checks to be sent to Americans amid stalled talks with Democrats over a new bill to address various issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Both Republicans and Democrats agree that another round of stimulus checks should be included in any legislation, which is stalled after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) ceded the GOP-side of negotiations to the White House and Trump attempted to bypass negotiations with unilateral action on a looming eviction crisis, student loans, extra weekly unemployment benefits, and payroll taxes.

The president tweeted that he had directed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “to get ready to send direct payments ($3,400 for family of four) to all Americans.” The tweet added that Democrats are holding up the stimulus payments, though there are several actual disagreements unrelated to stimulus checks.

US President Donald Trump signs executive orders extending coronavirus economic relief, during a news conference in Bedminster, New Jersey, on August 8, 2020. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump signs executive orders extending coronavirus economic relief, during a news conference in Bedminster, New Jersey, on August 8, 2020. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

The president’s suggestion of $3,400 for a family of four implies that the economic payments would be similar to the first round, included in the CARES Act passed in March, which involved eligible Americans receiving $1,200 each and an additional $500 per dependent.

However, Trump’s tweet expanded the proposed payment to “all Americans.” In the first round, single adults with income up to $75,000 were eligible for the full check, while reduced checks were available for single adults making between $75,001 and $99,000. Roughly 160 million Americans received stimulus checks in the first round of payments. Trump’s proposal would roughly double that number.

Can the president issue an executive order on stimulus checks?

According to experts, the president could not legally include this popular relief aid in executive orders or memoranda like he attempted to do with other issues.

“Fundamentally, the president doesn't have the authority to do that,” Seth Hanlon, a tax policy expert at the Center for American Progress, told Yahoo Money. “It would be blatantly unconstitutional if he did.”

Read more: Coronavirus stimulus checks: Here's why you can't find out your payment status

The president cannot draw money out of the Treasury that Congress hasn't yet appropriated. For instance, the money he’s using for the unemployment insurance executive order is reprogrammed funds that Congress has already appropriated for disaster relief.

That executive order directs the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to create a new program for unemployment using $44 billion in disaster relief funds. But he couldn’t use that money for purposes such as stimulus checks which, in practice, are tax rebates, according to Hanlon.

“The rules that Congress provided for the FEMA money do allow some flexibility on using it to provide aid to the unemployed,” Hanlon said. “It’s clearly in the domain of Congress — not the president — to authorize the direct payment of money out of the Treasury.”

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What do Republicans and Democrats say on stimulus checks?

The HEROES Act — the Democratic stimulus proposal passed by the House in May but not taken by the Senate — and the HEALS Act — the Republicans’ plan proposed in late July but never voted on by the Senate — outline similar ideas of what the next round of stimulus checks would look like.

The Republican plan would send a second wave of stimulus checks of up to $1,200 to Americans, plus an additional $500 for any dependent. The Democratic plan proposed that taxpayers would receive $1,200 per individual and an extra $1,200 dependent bonus for any dependent claimed on their tax return.

UNITED STATES - AUGUST 14: Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is pictured after a television interview in Russell Building on Friday, August 14, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is pictured after a television interview in Russell Building on Friday, August 14, 2020. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Under the Republican proposal, those without a Social Security number and nonresident aliens — those who aren’t a U.S. citizen or U.S. national and don’t have a green card or have not passed the substantial presence test — would not be eligible for a payment.

By contrast, the Democrats’ plan proposes sending payments to Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) filers and their families. The change would mean that more than 4.3 million adults and 3.5 million children would be eligible for the payment, according to ITEP.

Denitsa is a writer for Yahoo Finance and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @denitsa_tsekova.

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