Coronavirus checks: White House halts Democrats' call for more cash payments

Coronavirus checks: White House halts Democrats’ call for more cash payments

The Trump administration is pumping the brakes — for now — on calls for the Treasury Department to issue a second round of checks of up to $1,200 to American taxpayers to mitigate economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

The administration’s position puts it at odds with Democrats in Congress, who have been eager to begin negotiating a fourth bill aimed at economic “recovery,” but is in lockstep with the argument from House and Senate Republicans that the government should first see how effective the $2.2trn “phase three” coronavirus stimulus package passed in late March is before authorising more direct cash payments.

“Our job is to execute what we’ve got,” Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, told reporters Monday.

“You’ve got assistance going out to 175m people. I keep using that stat only because for somebody like me, who’s been around a while, it’s unbelievable: government assistance, 175m people,” Mr Kudlow said. “Let’s see what happens.”

Democrats have been advocating for a second round of stimulus checks since before Mr Trump even signed the first bill into law authorizing the initial round of payments.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the end of direct payments,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last month after wrapping negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Republicans.

Ms Pelosi said at that time that she would continue pushing in the next coronavirus response bill talks for checks for taxpayers worth up to $1,500, House Democrats’ initial proposal, which was whittled down to the eventual $1,200 mark.

The speaker reaffirmed her position in a ‘Dear Colleague’ letter to House Democrats Sunday, saying the next bill “must go further in assisting small businesses including farmers, extending and strengthening unemployment benefits and giving families additional direct payments.”

There already are signs of increasing friction between how Republicans and Democrats view the efficiency with which the government is rolling out checks from the $2.2trn bill, the largest economic relief package in US history.

“I think we’re doing OK, frankly. I know there are always a few glitches but I’d give it an ‘A,'” Mr Kudlow told reporters Monday of the Treasury Department’s schedule for getting direct payments into American taxpayers’ bank accounts. “You might not agree, but whatever. And, if we need more, we’ll ask for more, but day at a time, week at a time — let’s see how this works,” Mr Kudlow said.

Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Committee Democrats circulated a memo to lawmakers last week estimating millions of Americans might not get their $1,200 for months.

While the roughly 60m taxpayers whose direct deposit information is on file with the Treasury Department will receive their checks electronically beginning next week, the rest must be cut and mailed manually.

The Ways and Means Democrats estimate the Treasury Department has the capacity to cut and mail about 5m checks per week, meaning the last payments may not arrive in some Americans’ mailboxes until September.

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