STATEWIDE (WGME) — State officials are looking into the legality of the executive orders President Trump signed over the weekend.
An expert on presidential powers said he believes the only action that may not be legal is the one creating a new program that would provide $400 dollars in unemployment benefits with states footing a quarter of the bill.
Andrew Rudalevige chairs the Government and Legal Studies Department at Bowdoin College.
He said the memorandum on unemployment benefits is constitutional because it’s drawing from FEMA funds. money that was appropriated by Congress, but it’s not necessarily legal.
“There’s a legal question as to whether these funds can be used and there’s a practical question in that a remainder of money is supposed to come from the states,” he said.
A statement from Maine Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman said the order is vague and doesn’t include information about how the program would work, raising serious concerns about the ability to deliver benefits in a timely manner.
When it comes to the payroll tax cut also signed by the president on Saturday, Rudalevige doesn’t see any legal problems. Instead, he sees practical ones.
“I think there are some possible unintended consequences of this order,” he said. “It delays but doesn’t reduce, the portion of those taxes paid by employees for Social Security and Medicare.
“This does get more money into your pocket now but you may have to pay later and I don’t know if everyone the average taxpayer’s really going to understand that,” said Mike Santo, senior tax manager and member of the Maine Society of Certified Public Accountants.
Until the government issues more guidance, his best advice is to continue to have that money withheld if you can.
Otherwise, set it aside yourself.
An economics professor at the University of Southern Maine said what really is needed is another major relief package with congressional approval. He said the keys for recovery are an aid for state and local governments, an extension of the federal unemployment benefits, and more resources to improve the country’s response to COVID-19.