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Coronavirus Stimulus Plan Could Deliver $3K to Family of Four

March 20, 2020by CQ Roll Call Staff, CQ-Roll Call (TNS)

The emerging $1 trillion aid package intended to help weather the COVID-19 economic storm appears likely to deliver $1,000 to every U.S. adult, plus $500 per child, according to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and a GOP senator involved in the drafting.

“So for a family of four, that’s a $3,000 payment,” Mnuchin told Fox Business on Thursday morning, adding that he thinks the checks would be sent within three weeks of enactment.

“That may change in negotiations with Democrats, but that’s the priority right now,” Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said on the Hugh Hewitt radio show, confirming the basic structure of the plan under discussion.

Mnuchin said a second round of checks in the same amount would go out six weeks later if economic conditions haven’t improved and the “national emergency” Trump declared last week is still in effect. Mnuchin said most households wouldn’t have to worry about venturing outside to the bank to cash their checks and risk virus exposure: “It’s really money direct-deposited, most people.”

The stimulus checks were expected to cost roughly $500 billion, under an outline prepared by the Treasury Department, accounting for about half the cost. The remainder would be a $300 billion small-business lending program, and $200 billion in loans and loan guarantees for “severely distressed” industries, with airlines in line for a $50 billion slice of that provided they adhere to certain restrictions, including on executive compensation.

Romney said the goal of several “task forces” charged with drafting pieces of the stimulus plan intend to send their recommendations to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., “this morning.”

On Wednesday night, McConnell told senators to “stay close” as the chamber plans to send legislation to the House before leaving town.

Mnuchin and Romney said the small-business loan plan would include debt forgiveness for firms that keep people employed throughout the crisis.

Romney said the industry-specific credit facility will be “a great deal larger than just what’s needed for airlines.” He added that “it’ll be for those enterprises that are larger that are in difficult circumstances. How many will qualify is a real question. But those enterprises that are really key to the economy, key to national security, key to our infrastructure, will surely be high on the list.”

DEMOCRATIC SUPPORT NEEDED

While the discussions have been among Senate Republicans and the White House so far, for the most part thus far, Mnuchin has also held talks with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. Votes from Schumer’s caucus will be needed to get over the Senate’s 60-vote threshold, given Republicans number only 53 in that chamber and there could be GOP defections over what some might term a costly bailout.

Schumer told CNN on Wednesday night that when he spoke with Mnuchin he told him workers needed to come first before aid was delivered directly to their employers.

“If there are going to be some of these corporate bailouts, we need to make sure workers and labor come first. That people are not laid off. That people’s salaries are not cut,” Schumer said.

He also suggested corporate stock buybacks should be limited in some form, pointing specifically to reports that U.S. airlines had repurchased $45 billion of their own shares over the last decade — nearly equaling the new aid package sought by the industry. When companies buy back shares, the money isn’t available for hiring or investment in plant and equipment, though it drives up earnings per share and rewards shareholders.

Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md., told CQ Roll Call Wednesday night that the small-business lending provisions had more bipartisan support than the other pieces under discussion.

“We’ve had conversations about it,” Cardin said. “I think many Republican senators realize that we really need to put our nation first, and it would be a major mistake to just come out with a partisan proposal. … There should be conversations.”

Romney said those conversations will happen, it’s just a matter of when.

“You’ve heard the expression in the law which is the wheels of justice grind slowly. Well, the wheels of Congress grind even slower. And so Mitch has cut through all this” by organizing task forces to draft a package for review,” he told Hewitt. “And that’s record speed for this institution. Now of course, we’ve got to deal with our Democrat friends and see what they want to do and compromise and make something happen.”

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Niels Lesniewski, Jennifer Shutt, Paul M. Krawzak and David Lerman contributed to this report.

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©2020 CQ-Roll Call, Inc., All Rights Reserved

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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