Trump administration doubles down on proposing a one-time $600 stimulus check over weekly federal unemployment benefits

Steven Mnuchin
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Trump administration was aiming to deliver aid more efficiently via one-time stimulus checks instead of weekly federal unemployment benefits.

  • “We view this as a more effective way to get the money out quickly,” Mnuchin said in a call with reporters on Wednesday, Politico reported.

  • Economists say that replacing a weekly federal benefit with a one-time $600 payment would be a less efficient way to help jobless Americans.

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Trump administration defended its push for a one-time $600 stimulus check instead of weekly unemployment benefits in its latest stimulus offer, characterizing it as a more efficient way to deliver aid to struggling Americans.

“By sending out checks, we’re putting money into the economy for people. This will have the impact of creating demand, which will have the impact of creating jobs,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a call with reporters on Wednesday, per Politico. “We want to get people their jobs back.”

He went on: “We view this as a more effective way to get the money out quickly.”

The White House jumped into stimulus negotiations on Tuesday night with a $916 billion stimulus offer containing $600 stimulus checks for adults, plus an extra $500 per child. It was its first public engagement on a relief package since the election.

But the administration’s plan scrapped weekly federal unemployment benefits. A bipartisan group of moderate senators is seeking benefits of $300 per week from the end of December until early April as part of a $908 billion federal rescue package.

Read more: New document shows all the details of the $908 billion bipartisan coronavirus stimulus in the works

The White House’s move prompted a stinging rebuke from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who called it “unacceptable.”

Many economists have said the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit that lapsed in July was critical in accelerating the economic recovery later in the spring and summer, delivering cash to people with lower incomes who were likely to spend instead of save it.

Some now say that replacing a weekly federal benefit with a one-time $600 payment for Americans wouldn’t be as effective in aiding jobless people.

“Stimulus checks are fine to tack onto a deal but they are not a good substitute for extended UI, which is what this Mnuchin deal is proposing,” Ernie Tedeschi, an economist at Evercore ISI, tweeted on Tuesday.

As part of the CARES Act in late March, Congress and President Donald Trump authorized $1,200 direct payments for millions of American taxpayers earning up to $75,000 annually, plus an extra $500 per child under 17. The cash amount diminished until phasing out entirely for those making above $99,000. Married couples earning up to $150,000 a year qualified for the full payment as well.

The IRS distributed tens of millions of stimulus checks via direct deposit only two weeks after the law was enacted.

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