Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled Thursday that the third phase of Congress’ coronavirus response plan would aim to deliver stimulus checks to the majority of Americans in a bid to provide relief to families under economic strain “as rapidly as possible.”
McConnell, R-Ky., speaking on the floor, outlined the emerging Senate GOP proposal to provide “direct financial help” as the nation grapples with the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“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.
An outstanding question has been whether the aid would be restricted based on income and work status.
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."
How the middle class is defined can be a contentious subject when stimulus checks are on the line. One source told Fox Business Network that the amount would start to reduce for those making $75,000 and above -- and the checks would be limited to those who make $99,000 or less.
“This is something we want to do right away,” McConnell said on the floor. “This is not an ordinary policy, but this is not an ordinary time.”
He added: “The American people need help and they need it fast. This will deliver it.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday morning told Fox Business Network that the White House is looking at payments of $1,000 to most adult Americans within three weeks, and an additional $500 for children. A family of four would receive as much as $3,000. Mnuchin also said that if the crisis were still ongoing in six weeks, the federal government would deliver another round of checks worth the same amount of money.
But sources familiar with the negotiations between Congress and the Treasury Department later told FBN on Thursday that the Senate is now looking to deliver more than that per person.
Sources said that senators are weighing delivering $1,200 per adult in the U.S. in two payments, and an additional $500 for children.
Negotiations, though, are ongoing.
Mnuchin said earlier this week that it was “clear we don’t need to send people who make a million dollars a year checks.”
Meanwhile, McConnell’s new proposal also includes relief and support for small businesses, and would provide “new federally guaranteed loans” that he said would “address immediate cash flow problems.” McConnell also said that the Senate was working to let “qualified” small businesses get liquidity through “familiar institutions” like their community banks.
He added that the relief for small businesses would help them to “endure, help workers keep their jobs, and businesses and workers emerge from this ready to thrive.”
The Senate is also looking at 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.”
McConnell also said the new proposal would give more resources to those in the medical field and healthcare industry, and would “remove barriers to care, speed innovation, fund hospitals and health centers to treat patients and expand health care workers access to the tools they need.”
Meanwhile, President Trump on Wednesday signed the second coronavirus relief bill into law that provides paid sick leave, unemployment help and free testing to Americans.
The legislation provides 14 days of paid sick days to workers affected by the coronavirus, ensures free testing to everyone, including the uninsured, and expands food aid and boosts unemployment dollars to states.
The House and Senate already passed a bipartisan $8.3 billion package to prop up the health care system to prepare for the influx of sick Americans. The second response bill that was signed into law Wednesday aims to bring relief to workers who lost their jobs and families at home for illnesses, quarantines or caring for kids whose schools have shuttered.
As of Thursday afternoon, the U.S. had more than 10,700 confirmed cases of coronavirus in all 50 states, including Washington, D.C. The U.S., so far, has seen 154 COVID-19-related deaths.
The Trump administration’s task force predicted Tuesday that the number of cases in the U.S. could peak in about 45 days.
Fox Business Network's Edward Lawrence and Hillary Vaughn contributed to this report.