Women, especially Black women and Latinas, have been disproportionately devastated by this pandemic and related economic fallout, leading many to term the recession a “she-cession.” But President Trump’s executive actions signed on Saturday will not meet the needs of women and families by further threatening women’s economic security. Here’s a quick breakdown about how three actions fail and endanger women.
Deferring Payroll Taxes Doesn’t Help the Workers Who Need It Most and Threatens Social Security
Trump’s executive action gives employers the option to defer payroll taxes for workers paid $104,000 or less a year from September 1 through December 31. This deferral—which has bipartisan opposition—will not benefit millions of unemployed people since they are not paying payroll taxes. Additionally, because the action only defers the taxes rather than forgiving them, workers may be stuck with a huge tax bill once the deferral period is over in January. Recognizing this, about thirty industry groups, led by the Chamber of Commerce, have condemned the action as “unworkable” and indicated they will likely continue collecting payroll taxes from their employees as usual.
Not only will this action probably fail in its goal to help workers, it also has the potential to undermine Social Security and grievously harm women and families who depend on its benefits. Payroll taxes fund about 88% of Social Security’s income. Cutting payroll taxes or eliminating them entirely in the future—as Trump has indicated he would do if re-elected—would jeopardize the funding for this incredibly important program. A blow to Social Security would hit women hardest: women are 55% of adult beneficiaries, and the program lifted about 12 million women, including nine million older women, above the poverty line in 2017. During this unprecedented economic crisis, we should appreciate the value of stable, lifetime, inflation-adjusted benefits like Social Security – not looking for ways to undermine them.
The Unemployment Assistance Isn’t Enough and Won’t Last Long
Initially advertised by President Trump as a $400 weekly benefit, Trump’s executive action on lost wages proposes only $300 of weekly assistance for unemployed people—a steep, 50% reduction from the critical $600 weekly benefit Congress created through the CARES Act. It is also unclear when people who can’t pay their bills and are on the brink of eviction will receive this money. Many governors have indicated they will struggle to set up the action’s complicated administrative procedures, which could mean delays.
This measure is not enough for the millions of people in crisis, facing widespread and dire health and economic upheaval without an income—many of whom are women with families. Because employers typically pay women less than their male peers, women have less wealth and savings available to weather extended periods of unemployment. Not only is Trump’s executive action legally dubious and insufficient to meet people’s needs, it is also likely short-lived. With only $44 billion in federal dollars allocated for funding, the assistance will likely run out in six weeks—September of this year.
Assistance to Renters and Homeowners Won’t Prevent Evictions
President Trump’s action, which he claims will “protec[t] people from eviction,” is just empty words. It neither prevents evictions nor provides resources to address mounting back rent, which is estimated to total $70 billion by the end of the year. Instead, it tells certain federal agencies to consider whether it is necessary to temporarily halt evictions and to explore how they would fund rental assistance.
President Trump’s failure to address the eviction crisis disproportionately harms women, especially women of color. Even prior to the pandemic, women were 63% of the 9.5 million people receiving federal rental assistance, and only one out of four of all households that needed assistance actually received it. The she-cession is leaving more women struggling to pay rent. Eight million women missed or deferred July rent and more than 12.5 million women have little to no confidence they can pay August rent. Women and their families are already losing their homes, and millions more are at risk of eviction by the end of the year. They need real help now.
What You Can Do
President Trump’s executive actions are insufficient, unworkable, and harmful. Tell your senators to pass COVID-19 relief legislation that actually addresses the needs of women and families, including critical funding for child care, health care, front-line and unemployed workers, housing, nutrition assistance, education, the postal service, and state and local governments.