August 13, 2020

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If you’re reading this, then you probably know that Joe Biden picked Sen. Kamala Harris to run as vice president on the Democratic ticket. PolitiFact hasn’t checked any coronavirus claims from Harris, so let’s move on to the other big story of the week: President Donald Trump’s executive order-palooza over the weekend.

Trump signed multiple executive actions aimed at buoying the economy and throwing a lifeline to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including action on student loans and evictions. So what did it all mean?

PolitiFact dug into the orders and memos for you:

Trump took executive action in order to give millions of workers a break on payroll taxes. Each paycheck, employees see 6.2% of their wages go to Washington to help fund Social Security. Trump ordered Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to defer many of those payments for at least four months, from September through the end of the year.

That means someone making the median weekly wage of about $1,000 could see an extra $62 in their paycheck. Trump’s order applies to people making up to $2,000 per week, so people who earn more than $104,000 a year wouldn’t get the tax break.

Although that order did not address the unemployed, Trump signed an executive order that would provide a reduced weekly benefit of $400 — down from the previous $600 — on top of what people receive from their state unemployment program. But there are many complications.

Because the executive action circumvents Congress, which controls federal spending, it will likely face legal challenges. That would slow any disbursement of funds. Then there’s the complicated matter of implementing a 25% share with states who say they can’t pull it off with their already stressed budgets.

Trump also signed a presidential memorandum to defer federal student loan payments and waive interest rates for tens of millions of borrowers. The move is an extension of a portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act passed in March. The law deferred payments and waived interest rates for certain federal loans until Sept. 30, 2020.

The Institute for College Access & Success estimates that the payment deferral saved 18 million borrowers over $45 billion over six months, and a three-month extension of this would save borrowers another $23 billion, spokesperson Angelique Palomar told PolitiFact.

Click here to read about Trump’s action on evictions.

Has the U.S. achieved herd immunity from COVID-19?

No. Contrary to the claim in a Facebook post, we have not reached herd immunity against the coronavirus, and scientists say we aren’t close to achieving it in the United States. Experts estimate herd immunity will probably be reached when 60% to 70% of the population has been infected. Get the facts»

Trump claims that children are “almost immune from this disease”

As millions of parents across the United States agonize over whether their children should return to school, Trump has continued to downplay the chances that children will catch COVID-19. “This thing is going away, it will go away like things go away. My view is that schools should be open,” Trump said on Fox and Friends Aug. 5. Children represent about 7.3% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S, and research in other countries that reopened schools shows children can catch COVID-19. Read the fact-check»

Does coronavirus have a “99.9% recovery rate” in Texas?

Retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West, former one-term U.S. House member from Florida and now Texas GOP leader, claimed the latter state has a 99.9% recovery rate from COVID-19. Experts say this is false. See why»

Joe Biden said there is no “game plan” to distribute a coronavirus vaccine. Is he right?

As of early August, the federal government has no public plan showing how it plans to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine. But, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Academies of Sciences are working on recommendations for vaccine distribution. Check it out» 

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Alex Mahadevan is a senior multimedia reporter at MediaWise. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @AlexMahadevan. Follow MediaWise on TikTok.

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Alex Mahadevan is director of MediaWise at the Poynter Institute. He has taught digital media literacy to thousands of middle and high schoolers, and has…
Alex Mahadevan

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