COVID-19

Checks to U.S. households could provide stimulus after COVID-19 downturn

Mitchell Hartman Mar 18, 2020
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Democrats have called an aspect of the GOP bill a “slush fund” that would give Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (center) the ability to help industries without transparency. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
COVID-19

Checks to U.S. households could provide stimulus after COVID-19 downturn

Mitchell Hartman Mar 18, 2020
Democrats have called an aspect of the GOP bill a “slush fund” that would give Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (center) the ability to help industries without transparency. Drew Angerer/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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There’s a multi-billion-dollar plan to massively stimulate the economy during the COVID-19 epidemic — by sending checks to most American households. It could be a key part of the up to $1 trillion economic stimulus bill being negotiated by Congress and the White House.

Senators have floated numbers ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 per adult. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he wants checks to go out “in the next two weeks.” So how would this all work?

Sending a bunch of money to American consumers isn’t all that complicated for the Treasury Department and IRS, according to Louise Sheiner, policy director for the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution.

“The government has everybody’s information from W-2s and tax returns and so they actually send out checks or deposit electronically into people’s bank accounts,” Sheiner said. “Whether or not it’s a certain amount per adult, per household, per child, however they decide to do it.”

But getting money into people’s hands right away could be a challenge, according to Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who served on President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors and is currently president of the American Action Forum.

“We’ve done this twice before — in 2001 and 2008,” Holtz-Eakin said. “It’s not particularly fast. It’ll take six weeks at a minimum to get this set up and executed. It’s not particularly efficient — people don’t update their records, and there are a lot of checks that will not find their intended recipients.”

He said it might be hard for consumers to spend stimulus checks right now. But Sheiner said that’s OK — the money will boost the economy after the epidemic has passed.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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