Congress weighs massive stimulus amid coronavirus: What could be in it

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., released on Thursday his proposal for a massive stimulus package that Republicans drafted to ease the financial strains on Americans due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The package, which costs upwards of $1 trillion and focus on “direct financial help” to Americans in the form of cash payments, is not a done deal as McConnell will still need to get Democrats -- and a few lingering Republicans -- on board, but his bill outlined a series of measures they hope to see included in the final draft of the bill, with the biggest one likely being a series of stimulus checks sent out to most Americans.

“Senate Republicans want to put cash in the hands of the American people,” McConnell said Thursday, noting that lawmakers are currently finalizing a structure that can quickly send assistance to Americans.


McConnell indicated job status would not be a factor, and that the money would go to unemployed workers and those recently laid off; those still working; and retirees, even if they're already receiving Social Security checks.

While officials have indicated the ultra-rich would not be eligible, McConnell said Thursday the checks would still go to everybody "from the middle class on down. Period."

What options are being floated?

McConnell’s proposal would provide as much as $1,200 per person and $2,400 per couple in the U.S. The draft legislation, obtained by Fox News, would provide minimum payments of $600, and aid would be phased down at income thresholds of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 per couple. Additionally, there would be $500 payments for each child.

Republicans are also pushing for relief and support for small businesses, and would provide “new federally guaranteed loans” that he said would “address immediate cash flow problems.” McConnell said that the Senate was working to let “qualified” small businesses get liquidity through “familiar institutions” like their community banks.

Another facet that the GOP included in the package is implementing “targeted lending” to industries of national importance, like the airline industry.

“We’re not talking about so-called bailouts for firms that made reckless decisions,” McConnell said, referencing the 2008 financial crisis. “No one is alleging a moral hazard here.”

“None of these firms, not corner stores, pizza parlors, not airlines, brought this on themselves," he continued. “We’re not talking about a taxpayer-funded cushion for companies that made mistakes. We’re talking about loans that must be repaid.”


Democratic leadership in the Senate seems to be mostly on the same page with their Republican colleagues, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., saying his party is “ready and eager to look at what Republicans put together and to work with them to put together a bipartisan project.” Democrats agree with Republicans on issues like helping small businesses and making sure American workers receive money during the crisis.

One concern Democrats do have, however, is that any lending to at-risk industries must include protections for workers’ jobs. There has been widespread criticism of the airline industry for its recent stock buyouts using money that could help the ailing sector during the current pandemic.

“[I]f there is going to be a bailout of any sort for industry, worker priorities and worker protections must be included,” Schumer said in a statement. “Corporations should not get a bailout and then be allowed to fire employees or cut their salaries, cut their benefits.


Schumer also wants a “Marshall Plan” for the country’s public health infrastructure -- a reference to the massive initiative to help Europe rebuild after World War II. The lack of preparedness and dearth of medical supplies in the U.S. has come under intense scrutiny since the outbreak of the coronavirus reached American shores.

“Without a massive commitment from this Congress, our health care system will not be able to handle this crisis,” Schumer said. “There are not enough workers, not enough supplies, not enough beds, not enough state and local funding. There is a major concern that as this virus spreads that countless Americans will not be able to access or afford treatment if they get the coronavirus.”

Democrats also want to step up the money given to working Americans who are unemployed because of the current crisis, with Schumer calling it “unemployment insurance on steroids.”

“Our new employment insurance -- an unemployment insurance on steroids -- must have full payment so lost salaries are totally made up for, it must be quick and easy to access, and it must be broad-based," Schumer said. “Democrats will ask for that as one of our most important asks because that goes to the people who need help.”

Fox News’ Gregg Re, Brooke Singman and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.