The white house announced on Tuesday, March 17 that it’s implementing a $1 trillion economic aid package to counteract the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. At least $250 billion of that sum is said to go to American citizens in the form of direct payments with the rest likely going to struggling industries such as the airline industry.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said on Capitol Hill after a meeting with Senate Republicans “We have put a proposal on the table that would inject 1 trillion dollars into the economy. This is a combination of loans. This is a combination of direct checks to individuals. This is a combination of liquidity for small businesses,”
Direct Cash For American Citizens
Those who have been following the Democratic Election Primaries might notice the similarities between what the White House is suggesting now and what former presidential candidate Andrew Yang has been pushing for last year – a Universal Basic Income (UBI) plan, also called “The Freedom Dividend”, in the form of direct cash for all American citizens.
Another Democratic presidential candidate that’s still in the race – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard – has also supported UBI for the last couple of months and was recently joined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The difference between what Donald Trump and Steve Mnuchin are suggesting now and what Andrew Yang has been suggesting for a while seems to be only in scale as the White House’s aid package – while record-breaking in and of itself – still won’t encompass all Americans and will leave millions of American workers with no income.
“We don’t need to send people who make a million dollars a year checks,” Mnuchin said, ignoring the fact that millions of non-millionaires would still be left to dry under this new plan.
Awaiting Response from Congress
Still, the silver lining is that the White House is hopeful the new aid package will be available soon – if Congress acts quickly the first checks can start reaching Americans in a matter of weeks, probably by the end of April.
“Americans need cash now, and the president wants to get cash now,” Mnuchin said. “And I mean now in the next two weeks.”
President Trump himself had floated the idea of a payroll tax holiday before but is generally in favor of a more immediate action that would add cash to Americans’ hands as soon as possible.
“I think we are going to do something that gets money to them as quickly as possible,” Trump said. “We will have a pretty good idea at the end of the day what we will be doing.”
Different Plans from $1,000 to $4,500
The White House’s proposition, as well as Andrew Yang’s UBI plan, are both garnering more and more support in recent days among Republicans and Democrats alike. On Monday, March 16 Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah proposed a plan identical to Yang’s UBI – to give $1,000 to every American adult to help them with their financial obligations.
Several Senate Democrats led by Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado proposed an even bolder plan of $4,500 to every American. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. came up with her own aid plan of $1,000 to every adult and an additional $500 per child.
What exactly the White House, the Senate, and Congress are going to do remains to be seen but Trump’s and Mnuchin’s plan seems to be gathering speed. Mnuchin also announced that there’s going to be a $300 billion deferment in IRS payments but he still encouraged Americans who are expecting tax refunds to try and file their taxes by the usual deadline of April 15.
In regards to the stock markets, Mnuchin said that they intend to keep them open but possibly with shorter hours.
“We believe in keeping the markets open. Americans should have access to their money,” he said. “Everyone wants to keep it open. We may get to the point where we shorten the hours if that’s something we need to do.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. also commented on the recent developments, stating that he will discuss the proposal with Republicans and then open negotiations with the Democrats. He did indicate that he would be open to the White House’s plan, however.
“We’re examining policy tools to put money directly and quickly into the hands of American families,” McConnell said.
Despite the market’s volatility in response to recent developments and the record-breaking aid packages that both the White House, Republicans, and Democrats are suggesting, President Trump remained confident in regards to the economic situation in the U.S.
“I don’t think in terms of recession,” Trump told reporters. “I think our economy will come back very rapidly. I actually think we will have an economy like we’ve never had before.”
New Guidelines from the CDC Regarding Covid-19
Trump also used the chance to encourage Americans to follow the new 15-day guidelines of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that was issued last Monday.
“I would just say enjoy your home, stay, we have to get this problem fixed,” Trump said. He also said that he is against the idea of a full national lockdown similar to what countries like Italy or France have done, however.
“Hopefully we are not going to need it,” Trump said. “I just don’t think it’s going to be an action we’re going to take.”
As far as limiting travel, the President was more open -- “It’s possible. We’ll see how it goes.”