Politics Trump Administration Seeks to Send Checks to Americans as Part of Stimulus Package

22:40  17 march  2020
22:40  17 march  2020 Source:   online.wsj.com

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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said it backs a plan to send checks directly to Americans, likely within the next two weeks, as part of a stimulus plan to help households and businesses hit by the sudden economic slowdown triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is pitching Senate Republicans on a roughly $850 billion economic stimulus package, according to two people familiar with the matter, as the Trump administration works to craft more legislation to cushion the economic blow.

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“We want to make sure Americans get money in their pockets quickly and small business owners have access to funds,” said Mr. Mnuchin. He also cited the needs of hotels and airlines. “We have an entire package that we’ll be laying out those details today.”

Mr. Mnuchin also said the federal government will postpone the April 15 tax-payment deadline for millions of individuals, giving Americans another 90 days to pay their 2019 income tax bills in an unusual and unprecedented move. The IRS, using authority under President Trump’s national emergency declaration, will waive interest and penalties as well, Mr. Mnuchin said, though he encouraged Americans to file their taxes by the April 15 deadline.

The stimulus package comes as lawmakers are weighing the next stages in the economic response to the outbreak. Congress has already passed an initial $8.3 billion response and is near completing a second package of legislation focused on workers following some late changes made Monday to scale back a paid-leave expansion.

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Separate from the fiscal stimulus package Mr. Mnuchin is pitching, the White House also plans to ask Congress to approve an additional emergency funding bill to provide federal agencies with more resources to combat the virus, according to a senior administration official. The official said the administration hadn’t yet decided on the size of the request, but said it would be more than the $8.3 billion emergency funding bill approved earlier this month.

The measure would provide additional resources for agencies facing increased demands due to the epidemic, such as increased health care costs for the Department of Veterans Affairs, resource constraints on Customs and Border Protection as they grapple with new travel restrictions and new measures at the Department of Education that would defer interest payments for student-loan borrowers.

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Democrats have proposed their own $750 billion package for the third phase of the response, and other lawmakers have started floating a variety of measures, including giving $1,000 in cash to every American.

Mr. Mnuchin discussed the outline of the administration’s latest stimulus measure with Senate Republicans at the Capitol on Monday night, and he is expected to more fully detail the proposal during a broader meeting of Senate Republicans on Tuesday.

Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Steven Mnuchin standing next to a person in a suit and tie: President Donald Trump, left, with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. © KABC

President Donald Trump, left, with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Senate Republicans have also discussed combining the House-passed bill and the broader stimulus measures being proposed by the administration, according to a person familiar with the discussions. Such a move could speed up passage of the coronavirus response provisions in the Senate, but it would require the House to return to Washington to approve the new combined package.

The Trump administration’s stimulus plan will include roughly $50 billion for the airline industry, according to the people, as well as billions of dollars in general stimulus that could include a payroll tax cut. The proposal is still in its early stages and is awaiting final signoff from Mr. Trump, an administration official said.

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Among other proposals under consideration among lawmakers from both parties are direct cash payments to Americans, an idea endorsed in some form by Sens. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) and Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio).

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow is expected to join Mr. Mnuchin at the meeting with Senate Republicans.

The details remain in flux and even the top-line $850 billion figure could change, but Mr. Mnuchin is expected to discuss a number of options with Republicans, including a refundable tax credit to help people struggling with the economic effects of the outbreak and additional assistance for small businesses.

Mr. Mnuchin has said the administration would seek additional funds for emergency loans administered through the Small Business Administration, and is considering deferring quarterly tax payments to help small firms conserve cash.

The White House has signaled to Senate Republicans, who were largely cut out of earlier negotiations with House Democrats, that they will have a greater role in the discussions over the next stimulus package. Republican leadership and the administration hope to move a bill through the Senate quickly, perhaps as soon as the end of this week, one of the people said.

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“We’ll be looking for support for small and medium sized businesses, we’ll be working for support for certain industries that we’ve talked about and are particularly hard hit, I’ve talked about airlines, hotels, others. And we will be looking at a general stimulus,” Mr. Mnuchin told reporters in brief remarks on Capitol Hill Monday.

Though Mr. Trump is pushing a suspension of the payroll tax through the end of this year, the proposal has faced skepticism on Capitol Hill, and other proposals are under consideration.

“The president believes very strongly in his payroll tax cut idea and has made it crystal clear more than once his interest in seeing action on the payroll tax cut from Congress this year. However, there are also many other good ideas that members of Congress have,” Eric Ueland, the White House legislative affairs director, told reporters on Monday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) is also set to propose his own broad stimulus package that will be worth at least $750 billion. Mr. Schumer will provide details of his proposal to Senate Democrats during a meeting on Tuesday, which will be conducted over the phone, according to a senior Democratic aide. Mr. Schumer’s plan will include expanded unemployment insurance and aid for small businesses, among other measures, according to his office.

During his meeting Tuesday with Senate Republicans, Mr. Mnuchin is also expected to urge lawmakers to approve legislation passed in the House aimed at making testing for the coronavirus more widely available and providing paid leave to workers affected by the virus.

House lawmakers left Washington at the end of last week after passing that bill, while the Senate canceled a previously scheduled recess to work on legislation responding to the pandemic.

Democrats scaled back the paid-leave provision in the legislation in a series of changes made Monday, reducing eligibility for 10 weeks of paid leave beyond two weeks of paid-sick leave. Some Senate Republicans had raised concerns about the impact on business of the paid-leave provisions of the bill and Mr. Mnuchin negotiated the final changes with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) on Monday.

A person familiar with the White House’s thinking said the changes were made to the legislation to “reflect the deal between the secretary and the speaker,” referring to Mr. Mnuchin and Mrs. Pelosi, adding that the White House supported the alterations.

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