How the White House Wants to Cut Checks for Americans and Inject $1 Trillion into Economy to Combat Coronavirus

As Congress works to find ways to pump money into the economy and mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic constricting businesses' ability to maintain steady revenue streams, the Trump administration is eyeing a stimulus package worth $1 trillion that includes directly providing Americans with checks.

The plan has yet to be fully fleshed out, but the size and scope of such a proposal—which is on top of two other stimulus packages addressed by Congress—represents the realization by the White House and lawmakers that unless extreme measures are taken, the country could slip into a recession as workers lose their jobs or see their hours scaled back.

"It is a big number. This is a very unique situation in this economy," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said after a closed-door meeting with GOP senators Tuesday. "The government has requested that parts of this economy shut down."

The proposal is set to include loans, liquidity for small businesses and checks for individuals, according to Mnuchin. There's also been talk by the president and among Republicans to include bailout money for the travel industry, like cruises, airlines and hotels. It's yet-to-be-determined by what metrics the government would determine how much money an individual should receive, but Mnuchin indicated he was eyeing an expeditious timeline of just a few weeks for the proposal to be drawn up and passed.

The massive stimulus would be on top of two other packages, in addition to the Treasury deferring IRS payments for 90 days and making them interest- and penalty-free. An $8.3 billion bill for coronavirus vaccine and treatment costs has already been signed into law while a second multi-billion-dollar piece of legislation to provide workers with paid sick leave is set to be sent to the president's desk after being passed by the Senate sometime this week.

The idea of infusing the economy with cash that Americans can immediately see and use—rather than payroll tax cuts, for example, which have been met with pushback from both sides of the aisle over concerns it would not go far enough, quick enough—has grown among Republicans. Mnuchin did not push for payroll tax cuts during their Tuesday meeting, according to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), despite President Donald Trump's past desire to implement them.

$1 trillion stimulus coronavirus
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (R) speaks while flanked by President Donald Trump during a briefing about the coronavirus in the press briefing room at the White House on March 17 in Washington, DC. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the majority whip, said doling out money would be far more popular among his Republican colleagues.

"It can get dollars out there more quickly to meet the need in a more direct way," he said. "Payroll tax cut, obviously, will distribute out over several months. I think that there is a high level of interest among our members, and that idea seems to be an area where there's some common ground with the Democrats as well."

Among the Democratic and Republican lawmakers who've proposed cutting checks is Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who suggested each person should receive $1,000.

Some of the potential measures that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—who Republicans and the White House will need on board to make any idea become reality—would be open to is cash payments (so long as there are income restrictions) and tax credits, the California Democrat's spokesperson said.

As various stimulus proposals by individual lawmakers float around Capitol Hill, the White House and Senate GOP leadership want to move forward with the plan laid out by Mnuchin. McConnell said he's created three task forces among his conference to create the details of the $1 trillion stimulus package that will represent the wishes of the administration and Senate Republicans. After that, they'll confer with Democrats in both chambers to reconcile the differences.

Democrats have put forward plans of their own, including a $750 billion plan from Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. While he remained open to the idea of cutting individual checks, he said the bulk of the response should remain focused on containing the spread of the virus.

"They're worried about the big businesses," the New York Democrat said. "They want to pump some money into the economy, but if you don't solve the immediate health care and economic needs of the people who are hurt, the problem will just get worse."

Schumer also accused McConnell's process of first working with the White House and then turning to input from Democrats would only delay a final agreement.

"This should be a four corners negotiation with the White House," he added.