Valley CPA weighs in on what COVID-19 executive orders could mean for Arizonans

President Trump holds Saturday press briefing at New Jersey resort
Posted at 9:42 PM, Aug 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-10 01:29:51-04

President Donald Trump stepped in Saturday with four executive orders providing further financial COVID-19 relief when Congress stalled, but what do the orders really mean for Arizonans?

The orders signed by President Trump enhance unemployment benefits by $400 a week through the end of the year, extend student loan relief, defer payroll tax until January 2021, and call on federal leaders to look into a way to curb evictions nationwide.

Nearly one million Arizonans have filed for unemployment, meaning our state would be responsible for nearly $100 million a week to comply with the president's order.

Governor Doug Ducey has touted a $1 billion "rainy day" fund for Arizona, and may have to make the tough decision to dip into that money for unemployment assistance.

"Is this the rainy day that 'rainy day' fund is for? Only the governor can answer that," said Tom Wheelright, a CPA and CEO of WealthAbility®. "Arizona has a very good-sized rainy day fund. So of any of the states that could handle it, probably Arizona could handle it the best."

Federal money for the added unemployment benefits would come from the Department of Homeland Security's Disaster Relief Fund.

"The pandemic has been declared a national disaster, and FEMA funds are used for national disasters. So I think he’s got an interesting argument here," said Wheelright.

Another of Trump's executive orders was to defer payroll tax beginning on September 1 through December 31. The move would increase people's paychecks, but that tax money will still need to be paid back in 2021.

"If you're desperate for a little extra cash every month, you're going to take that on," said Wheelright. "There's always the hope that they'll make it permanent between now and the end of the year. The downside is of course, come January, you could have a very small paycheck."

Wheelright said if the payroll deferral stands, people could push back nearly 25 percent of their taxes.

Trump also continued student debt relief, which gets rid of interest on student loans and pushes payments back until the first of the year. He also signed an executive order asking for federal leaders to look into how to curb evictions.