Faced with an unprecedented economic crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the Trump administration is considering sending most American adults a check for $1,000 as part of efforts to stimulate the economy and help workers whose jobs have been disrupted by business closures because of the pandemic.
"Americans need cash now, and the president wants to get cash now — and I mean in the next two weeks," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a White House briefing Tuesday.
Large sectors of the economy are grinding to a near halt because of the novel coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent requests by federal, state, and local officials to shut down most business and ask people to self-isolate at home.
Other parts of the economy, like the cruise industry and airlines, are also reportedly looking for government assistance as officials ask people — especially the elderly — not to travel in order to stop the spread of the virus.
Trump has also spoken of his desire to cut payroll tax, but officials at the White House on Tuesday said that such measures would have long-term, not short-term, impacts.
"We want to make sure that Americans get money in their pocket quickly," Mnuchin said. "We're looking at sending checks to Americans immediately."
The White House will be talking to Senate Republicans about the proposal, which could mean $1,000 to most Americans.
It comes a day after Sen. Mitt Romney became the first Senate Republican to call for Americans to receive $1,000 "to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy."
The administration did not offer details on the program, but the president noted that "some people shouldn't be getting a thousand dollars."
"We don't need to send people who make $1 million a year checks," Mnuchin said. "We're going to preview that today and we're going to talk about details afterward."
The Trump administration has also been considering other relief measures for people affected by the pandemic, including deferring tax payments for up to 90 days.
"All you have to do is file your taxes," Mnuchin said. "You'll automatically not get charged interest and penalties."
The package under consideration could also include payments to small businesses, loan guarantees, and possible aid to industries that have been seriously hit by the economic slowdown, including airlines, hotels, and cruise companies.
"I think you know, this is worse than 9/11," Mnuchin said of the impact the pandemic is having on airlines.