U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Emerson Barnes issued the following statement on reports that congressional and administration leaders are suspending negotiations on the next phase of pandemic-related legislative relief:
“It is critical that leaders in Washington resume talks and move forward on much-needed coronavirus-related economic relief. The travel and tourism industry accounts for 38% of all U.S. jobs lost so far, and travel companies—83% of which are small businesses—remain particularly vulnerable to the economic impact of the health crisis.
“The earlier rounds of legislative relief were an important start, but they left a huge American sector exposed to the worst of the pandemic’s economic fallout: travel, which last year supported employment for one in 10 Americans but has now seen more than half its U.S. jobs wiped out since March.
“The Paycheck Protection Program needs to be extended immediately, and its eligibility expanded, or else millions of travel jobs are likely to disappear permanently and a U.S. recovery will be severely weakened before it even starts. Failing to move a package that would fill in some of the blanks of earlier relief rounds would be a tragic outcome for Americans on every rung of the economic ladder, and we hope leaders can recommit to continuing these negotiations this week.”
President Trump on Saturday signed orders to extend unemployment benefits, suspend payroll taxes, and offer federal eviction and student loan relief, taking unilateral action that is on shaky legal ground amid stalled negotiations about the fifth round of coronavirus relief in Congress.
The president announced the slew of executive actions from his private club in Bedminster, N.J., where he is spending the weekend after lawmakers on Capitol Hill were unable to reach an agreement with White House negotiators.
The president was not physically present for any of the talks over the last few weeks but has said he received regular updates from his staff.
ne memo extends the enhanced unemployment benefits that expired roughly two weeks ago and have been critical to millions of Americans out of work due to the pandemic. The benefits will be lowered from $600 to $400 per week, with states required to cover 25 percent of the cost, Trump said.
Another of the orders directs the Treasury Department to allow employers to defer payment of employee-side Social Security payroll taxes through the end of 2020 for Americans earning less than about $100,000 annually. The text of the executive order states that the intended deferral period would start Sept. 1, but Trump suggested that it could be retroactive to Aug. 1. Trump also said that he hoped to forgive the deferred payroll taxes and make permanent payroll tax cuts if he is re-elected in November.
“If I win, I may extend and terminate,” Trump said. “In other words, I’ll extend it beyond the end of the year and terminate the tax.”
Two additional orders defer student loan payments through the end of the year and aim to minimize evictions from federal housing, though the latter does not explicitly halt evictions.
“Through these four actions my administration will provide vital relief to Americans struggling during this difficult time,” Trump said, reading from prepared remarks.
Experts have questioned Trump’s authority to unilaterally intervene on unemployment benefits and the payroll tax, and his actions on Saturday may face legal challenges. But Trump shrugged off questions about the legality of the orders late Friday.