White House Wants to Send Individual $1,000 Stimulus Checks Now

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration is pushing to send direct payments to Americans within two weeks, and the White House wants the checks to be larger than $1,000, according to people familiar with the matter.

“Americans need cash now, and the president wants to give cash now. And I mean now, in the next two weeks,” Mnuchin said Tuesday at a White House briefing alongside President Donald Trump.

The cash payments would be part of an $850 billion stimulus plan Mnuchin is negotiating with lawmakers to deal with the coronavirus outbreak. The administration has not decided on how much to send Americans, but wants the checks to exceed $1,000, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Mnuchin said the administration will aim not to send checks to millionaires but stressed the need for urgency. He was due to meet Republican lawmakers after the briefing.

“I think we’re going to do something that gets money to them as quickly as possible,” Trump said.

Mnuchin also said the government intends to keep stock markets open.

‘Practical Limitations’

It may not be practical to get money to Americans as fast as Trump desires. When Congress sent stimulus checks in 2009 to combat the financial crisis it took more than two months from the signing of the bill to checks hitting the mail.

It’s quickest and simplest for Congress to send the same amount to every individual person, but still will take months to happen, Marc Gerson, a former tax counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee, said. If lawmakers decide to give more money to lower-income workers, it becomes even more complicated.

“There are practical limitations with cutting checks,” he said.

In a further move to relieve financial stress on average Americans, Mnuchin said that individual taxpayers can get a deadline extension on paying taxes of up to $1 million and corporations can defer tax payments of up to $10 million. The deferments can total as much as $300 billion, Mnuchin said, up from $200 billion he proposed last week.

The 90-day delay gives taxpayers additional time to pay their outstanding tax liabilities without interest or penalties. The White House is encouraging taxpayers to still file by April 15 if they don’t owe the IRS any money.

‘Substantial Reduction’

Trump on Monday advised Americans not to meet in groups larger than 10, avoid restaurants and bars and to educate their children at home if practicable. Vice President Mike Pence said that if those social-distancing guidelines are followed, the U.S. may see “a substantial reduction in the spread of the coronavirus.”

There have been more than 5,000 cases of the virus in the U.S. and 91 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Pence also said Tuesday the White House is asking construction companies to donate their supplies of N95 air-filtering masks to hospitals and to “forego making additional orders” in order to ensure health-care workers have sufficient access to the gear.

— With assistance by Mario Parker

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