President’s Executive Orders Fail to Address Pandemic-Relief Needs

This statement can be attributed to Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

Washington, DC, August 11, 2020–This past weekend, after months of delay and intransigence by the Senate leadership and the White House, President Trump unilaterally issued four executive actions regarding COVID relief. These orders completely fail to ease the economic and health crisis, as coronavirus cases continue to surge. Millions of people have lost their jobs and earnings, struggle to pay their bills, feed their families and children, and face the prospect of being evicted from their homes. State and local governments confronting dramatic budget shortfalls face the prospect of even deeper cuts to government services. The health and wellbeing of individuals and families with low incomes, communities of color and immigrant families who suffered the greatest harm during the pandemic and recession are at even greater risk now as the inequities across health, mental health, and economic indicators worsen.

In the nearly three months since the House passed the Heroes Act — legislation that would fund urgent public health priorities and get much-needed financial support to states, localities, and many individuals and families — we know that the health and economic impacts of the pandemic have not lessened. Yet the Senate leadership and the White House have steadily failed to act, with Senate Republicans unveiling last month a COVID relief package that fell well short of meeting the needs of children, families, workers, and states and localities.

The executive orders would slash the enhanced unemployment benefits that millions of workers are depending on and inadequately address the coming eviction crisis. They fail to meet the urgent needs for health care, nutrition assistance, paid sick days, paid family and medical leave, child care funding, state and local fiscal relief, and many other urgent priorities.

The president’s executive actions are in no way a substitute for a comprehensive legislative package that addresses the dire needs of communities most impacted by the pandemic and the urgent need of states to fill budget gaps. In addition to the legal and implementation challenges that these orders may face, they are woefully insufficient to addressing the devastating crisis.

Given the urgency of the crisis today, the Trump Administration must return to Congressional negotiations. Leaders should pass a comprehensive COVID relief bill that responds to the scale of the crisis now facing the nation’s working people, children, families, and communities, particularly people with low incomes and communities of color. Failing to meet these needs will damage the nation’s future for a generation, as children go hungry, young people are unable to work or go to school, and states slash jobs and support.