Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Tuesday that the government is working to start sending checks to Americans “within two weeks” as part of the stimulus package currently being negotiated by the administration with Congress.
“We’ve talked about a stimulus package to the American worker. You can think of this as something like business interruption payments for the American workers,” Secretary Mnuchin said in a press briefing on Tuesday.
Although the initial idea involved granting payroll tax holiday, Mnuchin said the government acknowledged such a plan would get people money over the next six to eight months.
“We’re looking at sending checks to Americans immediately. And what we’ve heard from hard working Americans, many companies have now shut down — whether it’s bars or restaurants. Americans need cash now, and the President wants to get cash now.
“I mean now, in the next two weeks,” he added.
Asked about the amount of the planned check, the Treasury secretary said while details are still in discussion, it could be more than the numbers floating around.
“There’s some numbers out there. They may be a little bit bigger than what’s in the press,” he said.
Even Bigger Numbers?
Some lawmakers have proposed from $1,000 to $6,000 cash assistance to Americans earning less than $65,000 a year, as part of efforts to combat the economic impact of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
“Every American adult should immediately receive $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy,” Sen. Mitt Romney said in a statement. “Congress took similar action during the 2001 and 2008 recessions.”
Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan and California Rep. Ro Khanna also proposed that the government send a check worth between $1,000 and $6,000 to every American who earned less than $65,000 last year.
Self-proclaimed progressive Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said that Republicans and Democrats “are both coming to the same conclusion: Universal Basic Income is going to have to play a role in helping Americans weather this crisis.”
GOP & Democrats are both coming to the same conclusion: Universal Basic Income is going to have to play a role in helping Americans weather this crisis.@RoKhanna & @TimRyan’s proposal goes up to $6,000/mo depending on need. Mitt Romney just came out for a flat $1,000 universal. https://t.co/43d4AWK70u
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) March 16, 2020
Secretary Mnuchin said though he is still hammering out details, it’s clear that “we don’t need to send people who make a million dollars a year checks.”
The priority, according to the Treasury secretary, is getting the money to Americans as “quickly as possible.”
“We want to make sure Americans get money in their pockets quickly. We want to make sure small business owners have access to funds — we want to make sure that hotels, airlines — we have an entire package. We’ll be laying out those details later,” he said.
Read the whole statement here.
Economists Weigh In
Several economists have already weighed in on the proposal saying the $1,000 payment is necessary to avert the economy from a possible coronavirus recession.
Economist Nouriel Roubini agreed that the government should give $1,000 to “every single US resident” before it’s too late.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re young, old, employed, unemployed, student, formerly employed, partially employed, hourly worker, contractor, gig, or small business,” the New York University economist told Yahoo Finance. “Everybody needs $1,000 or otherwise we’ll end up in the Great Depression at this point.”
Harvard University professor and former Obama adviser Jason Furman said in a Wall Street Journal column earlier this month that Congress should hand out $1,000 checks to every adult American.
“Congress should pass a simple one-time payment of $1,000 to every adult who is a US citizen or a taxpaying US resident, and $500 to every child who meets the same criteria,” he wrote. He added that this could be “ similar [or] somewhat more generous than, what President Bush did in 2008.”
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said it is now in the hands of Congress and the Trump administration to help American workers and businesses weather the impact of the shutdown of some parts of the economy. The central bank already moved to cut interest rates to zero.