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Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg August 10, 2020

If Your Time is short

  • A Facebook post asked, "How does a payroll tax cut help millions who are unemployed and have no payroll?" The question ignores half the picture. Trump addressed the unemployed in a separate executive action. 

President Donald Trump’s weekend order to give millions of workers a break on payroll taxes caught many people by surprise, and created a range of reactions, criticism and questions.

One post on Facebook claimed, "How does a payroll tax cut help millions who are unemployed and have no payroll?"

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) 

We’re not rating this claim because it was raised as a question and not a statement of fact. But the question ignores half the picture. In order to benefit from a payroll tax holiday, you need to be on someone’s payroll, and the unemployed are not.

But Trump addressed the unemployed in a separate executive action. Trump said he wanted the unemployed to get an extra $400 each week through Dec. 6. 

There are substantial hurdles in pulling that off, but that was his approach to helping the unemployed. The payroll tax holiday was designed to give workers more money, and hopefully boost the economy as they spent more.

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Our Sources

White House, Memorandum on Deferring Payroll Tax Obligations in Light of the Ongoing COVID-19 Disaster, Aug. 8, 2020

White House, Remarks by President Trump in Press Briefing, Aug. 8, 2020

Fox News, Fox News Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020

CNN, State of the Union, Aug. 9, 2020

Jenna Ellis, tweet, Aug. 8, 2020

Congressional Budget Office, The federal budget in 2019, April 2020

Social Security Administration, 2020 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Funds, April 22, 2020 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, USUAL WEEKLY EARNINGS OF WAGE AND SALARY WORKERS, July 17, 2020

Internal Revenue Service, Deferral of employment tax deposits and payments through December 31, 2020, July 30, 2020

Inc., Why Businesses Should Ignore Trump's Payroll Tax Holiday, Aug. 9, 2020

Forbes, White House Walks Back ‘Permanent’ Payroll Tax Cut Amid Social Security Concerns, Aug. 9, 2020

Bloomberg, Trump’s Payroll Tax Action Creates Political, Business Risks, Aug. 9, 2020

Kiplinger, What Trump's Payroll Tax Cut Will Mean for You, Aug. 10, 2020

Email exchange, William Hoagland, senior vice president, Bipartisan Policy Center, Aug. 10, 2020

Email exchange, Eugene Steuerle, economist and cofounder, Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center., Aug. 10, 2020

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Donald Trump's payroll tax break not meant to help unemployed