Andrew Yang Urges for Universal Health Care, $1,000 per Month for Americans to Fight Coronavirus

Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang renewed his call for a universal basic income (UBI) of $1,000 per month for each American adult during the coronavirus crisis in an interview with The Atlantic published Monday.

UBI was a major part of Yang's suspended presidential campaign, but a form of the concept has recently been endorsed by Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney and New York Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Yang said he believes the payment program should remain in place "until this crisis is over."

"It would be immensely helpful right now in this time of crisis," Yang said. "I think it should $1,000 per month of economic lockdown. And the CDC just announced that they're advising against gatherings of 50-plus [people] for eight weeks. But we don't know if the world's going to reopen in eight weeks. It's unclear what data we would have that would enable the CDC or other policymakers to give us the 'all clear.'"

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"So, it should be $1,000 a month until this crisis is over," Yang added.

Yang also said he was "optimistic" that the UBI would be passed by lawmakers. "What is the political downside to giving everyone cash?" Yang asked. "I don't see it. It's like, you pass it and you look like a hero; you don't pass it, you're a moron. Even members of Congress can see that calculation."

Universal health care was also important to Yang, particularly in the current economy where full-time employment is being replaced by contract work.

"The fact is our employment-based health-care system is purely an accident, based on our experience in World War II, where there were pay caps and companies bolted on health insurance trying to attract workers," Yang said. "And now we're stuck with this completely messed-up hodgepodge where your insurance is tied to a full-time job that exists for fewer and fewer Americans. Because again, most of the new jobs that are getting created are gig and contract jobs. So these are massive economic and social changes that we just have adapted to in a meaningful way."

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Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang suggested a temporary universal basic income to help Americans stimulate the economy during the fight against the coronavirus Monday. Scott Olson/Getty

Romney endorsed the idea of sending each American adult $1,000 on a one-time-only basis in a Monday press release.

"Every American adult should immediately receive a one-time check for $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy," Romney said. "Congress took similar action during the 2001 and 2008 recessions."

"While expansions of paid leave, unemployment insurance, and SNAP benefits are crucial, the check will help fill the gaps for Americans that may not quickly navigate different government options," Romney continued.

Romney's proposals also include bridge grants from the Small Business Administration for any small business that do not receive Economic Injury Disaster Loans and adjusting Pell Grants for students affected by the coronavirus, according to a statement sent to Newsweek.

Newsweek reached out to Yang for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

In a Saturday tweet, Ocasio-Cortez said that Americans "need emergency UBI, now."

"The need for social distancing from restaurants only underscores the need for relief for tipped workers, freelancers, shift workers, etc. Tax credits & unemployment insurance does not help many of these workers- that's a huge segment of our economy. We need emergency UBI, now."

Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard introduced a resolution on Saturday which would bring about temporary UBI if passed.

"The coronavirus pandemic has created a threat to the health and well-being of the American people, as well as to our country's economic stability," Gabbard said in a Saturday press release. "While some in Washington are focused on taking care of Wall Street, everyday Americans get left behind. That's wrong."

"Instead, we must act swiftly to provide a temporary universal basic payment of $1,000 per month to every American adult to help them weather the storm created by this crisis. Taking care of all Americans will stimulate our economy during this downturn," Gabbard continued.

Updated (3:59 p.m. 3/17/2020): This story has been updated to included information from a statement sent to Newsweek from Senator Romney's office.

Andrew Yang Urges for Universal Health Care, $1,000 per Month for Americans to Fight Coronavirus | U.S.