WASHINGTON — The White House wants to cut checks to Americans in early April and late May as part of a $500 billion direct payment program to stop an economic calamity brought on by the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to a document obtained by VICE News.
Two identical payments would be made April 6 and May 18, and would be based on income level and family size, according to the proposal from the Treasury Department. The proposal is just one on a two-page sheet that was sent to the Senate, which will have to craft the ideas into legislation.
As a result, the specifics are light and the details could drastically change.
When asked at a coronavirus task force press conference Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump said they’re still figuring out the exact numbers of the checks, telling reporters details are “to be determined.”
“People want to go big. Everybody seems to want to go big,” Trump said.
Still, the document shows a starting point, and reveals the contours of Trump’s plan to prop up companies and individuals, as industries across the country have ground to a halt and millions of people have lost or risk losing their ability to work and make an income.
The plan also calls for a $300 billion loan program that could allow small businesses who’ve been disrupted by the outbreak to continue to keep employees on the payroll. The White House wants this only to be available to businesses with 500 or fewer employees, and would allow them to borrow a maximum of $1,540 per employee per six weeks. In exchange, the companies would agree to keep paying employees for eight weeks.
The plan would also free up $50 billion to loan to the struggling airline industry, in exchange for them continuing some service and limiting giving raises to their executives until the loan is fully repaid. Another $150 billion would be made available to help other sectors of the economy that have been decimated by the crisis.
Finally, the plan calls for Congress to give the White House the authority to temporarily bail out the money market mutual fund industry, a move the government made in 2008 after the Lehman Brothers collapse. Congress prohibited the executive branch from taking similar action in 2010.
Cover: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a Coronavirus Task Force news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Trump invoked the Defense Production Act, allowing the government to boost production of masks and protective equipment. (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)