Advocates skeptical about rent relief program

Advocates skeptical about rent relief program

With millions of unemployed Americans at risk of eviction on Sept. 1 due to Congress’s failure to extend the $600 a week boost to unemployment insurance benefits, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he will use his executive power to halt evictions. Jennifer Jacobs and Jacob Sink of Bloomberg report that the order is meant to halt the spread of Covid-19, which could worsen if people become homeless and are forced into congregate settings: 

To obtain the relief, renters must assert they are incapable of paying their rent or are likely to become homeless if kicked out of their property, the administration official said. Individuals who received a coronavirus stimulus check earlier this year also qualify for the protection, as do couples who jointly file their taxes and expect to earn less than $198,000. … Those seeking eviction relief will still be required to pay as much rent as they can afford. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said earlier Tuesday that the actions taken by the administration could impact “close to” 40 million renters.


$300 unemployment insurance boost is a temporary fix
More than 350,000 jobless Louisianans have been receiving a $300 weekly boost to their unemployment benefits, and the payments will continue this week. The money comes from a controversial executive order by President Trump, and is being taken from FEMA’s disaster recovery fund. While the $300 boost is a lifeline for many families, it is still woefully inadequate when combined with Louisiana’s maximum weekly benefit of $247. Tyler Bridges of |The Baton Rouge Advocate reports

Jobless workers have to receive at least $100 per week in unemployment benefits to qualify for the temporary $300 weekly payments. Clay Addison, 34, is among the unemployed workers who need the money. He had spent the past nine years working for an oil services company out of Bossier City when he was laid off in February. He and his wife, a registered nurse, have four children and are caring for his parents. They all had to quarantine for 28 days after first Addison’s wife and then their son fell ill with the virus. Addison noted that he had never collected unemployment benefits before and said of the $300 weekly payment, “Right now, it’s a lifeline.”

Payroll tax relief will need to be paid back
Workers making less than $2,000 per week could see a temporary boost to paychecks if their employers decide to waive payroll taxes under President Trump’s executive order. But this boost is merely temporary, as any payroll taxes waived would need to be paid back unless forgiven by Congress. Trump is pushing for a permanent cut in payroll taxes, which are used to fund critical safety-net programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Scott Horsley of the National Public Radio discusses the confusion

But as new guidance from the IRS makes clear, the windfall is merely a temporary loan. Unless Congress decides to forgive the taxes, employees will have to repay the money early next year. … The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and dozens of trade groups have called the president’s plan “unfair” and “unworkable,” and say many of their members will simply keep collecting payroll taxes as they always have.

White House is open to discussing aid to states

State and local governments, unlike the federal government, are required to keep their budgets balanced. This task has become much more difficult in the Covid-19 recession, as revenue from sales taxes, property taxes and personal income taxes have plunged. That’s why more federal aid is desperately needed to ensure that state and local governments have the money to pay teachers, keep communities safe and provide health care for those who can’t afford it. Talks between the White House and Congress broke down last month, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the president is open to a deal. Allison Stevens of the Louisiana Illuminator

Sen. Bill Cassidy had made a strong push to rescue ailing state and local governments, but his Republican leaders had proved resistant. Cassidy had pressed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for $500 billion in assistance and urging the nation’s mayors to lobby for aid to cities and states. In an interview with the Illuminator last month, Cassidy said he told mayors on a call with the National League of Cities to “show ‘em your books.” “Show them that this time a year ago this is how much you got, and this year you have far less. And because of that, you’re gonna have to lay off police officers and firefighters and teachers,” he said.

Number of the Day

53%  The share of the 160 Louisianans killed by police since 2013 that were Black, despite Black Louisianans making up just 32% of the state’s population. (Source: The Advocate)