Coronavirus stimulus bill: President Trump wants to send Americans checks 'in next 2 weeks,' Treasury Secretary Mnuchin says

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump is asking Congress to unleash a torrent of emergency economic aid to help people through the financial pain of the coronavirus crisis, with sizable checks directly to Americans as part of the deal.

Trump wants checks out to the public within two weeks, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday as state and local officials acted more forcefully to restrict gatherings and mobility in the face of growing sickness. "The president has instructed me we have to do this now."



The proposal to send checks requires approval from Congress.

Americans can expect the first checks of "at least $1,000" to go out by the end of April if Congress approves the proposal the administration pitched to Senate Republicans Tuesday, a senior administration official told ABC News.

The official said the amount of the check will depend "on where we set the income cap for eligibility." A second check could go out two months later if the country is still in a national state of emergency.

"We want to make sure Americans get money in their pockets quickly," Mnuchin said. After a savage drop Monday, the stock market rose during the briefing at which Trump and his aides sketched out elements of the economic rescue package.

Mnuchin was pitching the roughly $850 billion package to Senate Republicans at a private lunch, with officials aiming to have Congress approve it this week. Some lawmakers were skeptical. "I'm going to be very leery of doing something like in 2008," said Indiana Republican Sen. Mike Braun.

Proper hand washing

Health officials say regular and thorough hand washing is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19.



Earlier, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised swift action of some sort.

"The Senate will not adjourn until we have passed significant and bold new steps above and beyond what the House has passed to help our strong nation and our strong underlying economy weather this storm," McConnell said.

Bigger than the 2008 bank bailout or the 2009 recovery act, the White House proposal aims to provide a massive tax cut for wage-earners, $50 billion for the airline industry and relief for small businesses.

Two people familiar with the request described it to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly.

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Congress was being asked to approve the most far-reaching economic rescue package since the Great Recession of 2008.

"There's great spirit" among lawmakers, President Donald Trump said at the White House briefing as he outlined several elements of the rescue plan. "I can say that for Republicans and Democrats."

But it's an enormous political and economic undertaking as a slow-moving Congress tries to rise to the occasion of these fast times.

The debate is sure to revive the sharp divisions over the costly bank bailout and economic recovery of the Obama and Bush era. Particularly striking is McConnell's urgency after having adjourned the Senate over the weekend while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi muscled through an aid package.

Angry senators from both parties boarded planes returning to a changed Washington, as Trump declared a state of emergency, the virus spread and the economic free-fall worsened. Despite federal guidelines against so many people gathering, senators had no choice but to convene. Legislating cannot be done from home. The House is on a recess.

The White House hopes the measure will pass quickly, possibly this week, an enormous political undertaking as the administration scrambled to contain the economic fallout of the severe disruptions to American life from the outbreak.

The rush to inject cash and resources into the economy is an effort unlike any since the 2008 economic crisis, with political and economic interventions and eye-popping sums to try to protect Americans from the health and financial fallout.

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The new proposal is beyond the House's estimated $100 billion aid package of sick pay, emergency food aid and free virus testing that was approved over the weekend and is pending before the Senate.

Now Congress will be rushing to pass two - a massive, sweeping response to the virus outbreak that is rewriting America's way of life.

Muscling the aid will test Congress and the White House at a pivotal moment in the crisis and in an election year when the two parties have vastly different outlooks on the best way to prop up the economy and help Americans.

Senate Democrats have proposed their own $750 billion package - boosting hospital capacity and unemployment checks for the suddenly jobless - with deep negotiations to come.

All sides - the House, Senate and White House - agree more federal resources are needed to handle what's coming.

At the start of the month, Congress approved $8.3 billion in initial aid. Trump quickly signed into law the measure, which provided federal agencies money for vaccines, tests and potential treatments, and funding to help state and local governments respond to the threat.

During the recession, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, passed in February of that year, had an initial price tag of $787 billion which was revised later to $831 billion. That was under Barack Obama.

The Tarp passed in the fall of 2008 to help troubled banks had a price tag of $700 billion. It was put together by the George W. Bush administration, and provided money for the auto bailouts for General Motors and Chrysler. All of that money for the banks and the auto companies was paid back.

Now, Republicans often reluctant to spend federal dollars did not flinch at the head-spinning number, as a roster of America's big and small industries - airlines, hotels, retailers - lined up for aid.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, called for sending $1,000 to every adult American - an idea the White House now is proposing, though not necessarily that sum.

Industries representing a broad swath of the economy are seeking help in withstanding the fallout as schools close and Americans are being told they should stay inside, skip nonessential travel and avoid gatherings with 10 people or more.

That means no dining out, no boarding planes, no shopping the malls as a great national shutdown sparks business closures, layoffs and lost paychecks for rents, mortgages and everyday needs.

The nation's largest business organization, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, asked the Trump administration and Congress on Monday to act rapidly to help companies have access to cash and avert a "potentially devastating" hit to the economy.

The request from the U.S. airlines alone could easily top $50 billion, according to Airlines for America, the trade group representing the carriers.

Pulling together the new package will challenge the basic logistics of governing as Congress itself struggled to adapt to the new normal.

House Democrats were told on a conference call they won't be recalled to Washington until the next package is ready for action, according to people familiar with the call but unauthorized to discuss it and granted anonymity.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

On Monday, the White House issued new recommendations that over the next 15 days, Americans should not gather in groups of more than 10 people, schooling should be at home and discretionary travel and social visits should be avoided. If anyone in a household tests positive for the virus, everyone who lives there should stay home. The administration did not define what an older American was in terms of the recommendation to stay home.

Full list of White House guidelines:

  1. Listen and follow the directions of your state and local authorities.
  2. If you feel sick, stay home. Do not go to work. Contact your medical provider.
  3. If your children are sick, keep them at home. Do not send them to school. Contact your medical provider.
  4. If someone in your household has tested positive for the coronavirus, keep the entire household at home. Do not go to work. Do not go to school. Contact your medical provider.
  5. If you are an older person, stay home and away from other people.
  6. If you are a person with a serious underlying health condition that can put you at increased risk (for example, a condition that impairs your lung or heart function or weakens your immune system), stay home and away from other people.
  7. Even if you are young, or otherwise healthy, you are at risk and your activities can increase the risk for others. It is critical that you do your part to stop the spread of the coronavirus:
    • Work or engage in schooling from home whenever possible.
    • If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule. You and your employers should follow CDC guidance to protect your health at work.
    • Avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.
    • Avoid eating or drinking at bars, restaurants, and food courts - use drive-thru, pickup, or delivery options.
    • Avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits.
    • Do not visit nursing homes or retirement or long-term care facilities unless to provide critical assistance.
    • Practice good hygiene:
      • Wash your hands, especially after touching any frequently used item or surface.
      • Avoid touching your face.
      • Sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the inside of your elbow.
      • Disinfect frequently used items and surfaces as much as possible.
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