WASHINGTON – The White House and Senate leaders announced a $2 trillion pandemic response measure on Wednesday that includes sending checks directly to people across the country impacted by the coronavirus crisis.
The package provides one-time payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child under the age of 17. Married couples will receive $2,400.
However, payments phase out for individuals making more than $75,000. For every $100 you earn above the limit, payment drops by $5.
Individuals making more than $99,000 and couples making more than $198,000 will not qualify for a payment.
The amounts will be determined based on 2019 tax returns. If a 2019 tax return has not been filed, 2018 returns will be used. Last week, a Treasury Department request to Capitol Hill outlined a start date of April 6 with the second batch of checks going out on May 18.
According to the Tax Policy Center, 90% of Americans will qualify for a payment.
When will I get my check?
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said they hope to start issuing checks within three weeks, with the remainder of the checks to be mailed by the end of May. However, the stimulus bill does not provide a specific timeline for payment distributions.
“We want to make sure Americans get money in their pockets quickly,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week. “As soon as Congress passes this, we will get this out in three weeks.”
The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 was signed on Feb. 13, 2008. However, checks were not mailed out until April.
A huge cash infusion for hospitals expecting a flood of COVID-19 patients grew during the talks at the insistence of Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, while Republicans pressed for tens of billions of dollars for additional relief to be delivered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal disaster agency.
Democrats said the package would help replace the salaries of furloughed workers for four months, rather than the three months first proposed. Furloughed workers would get whatever amount a state usually provides for unemployment, plus a $600 per week add-on, with gig workers like Uber drivers covered for the first time.
“It ensures that all workers are protected whether they work for businesses small, medium or large, along with self-employed and workers in the gig economy,” Schumer said.
Republicans won the inclusion of an “employee retention” tax credit that’s estimated to provide $50 billion to companies that retain employees on payroll and cover 50% of workers’ paychecks. Companies would also be able to defer payment of the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax.
Democrats pointed to gains for hospitals, additional oversight of the huge industry stabilization fund and money for cash-strapped states. A companion appropriations package ballooned as well, growing from a $46 billion White House proposal to more than $300 billion, which dwarfs earlier disasters — including Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy combined.
To provide transparency, the package is expected to create a new inspector general and oversight board for the corporate dollars, much as was done during the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program bank rescue, officials said.
President Trump in recent days has sounded a note of frustration about the unprecedented modern-day effort to halt the virus’ march by essentially shutting down public activities in ways that now threaten the U.S. economy.
Even though Trump’s administration recommended Americans curtail activities for 15 days, starting just over a week ago, the Republican president said he may soon allow parts of the economy, in regions less badly hit by the virus, to begin reopening.
He continued on that theme Tuesday as he weighed a relaxation of social distancing guidelines after the 15-day period is up. His suggestion that the pandemic could ease and allow a return to normalcy in a mere few weeks is not supported by public health officials or many others in government.
On Tuesday, top defense and military leaders warned department personnel that the virus problems could extend for eight to 10 weeks or longer. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a Defense Department town hall meeting that the crisis could even extend into July.
Trump has balked at using his authority under the recently invoked Defense Protection Act to compel the private sector to manufacture needed medical supplies like masks and ventilators, even as he encourages them to spur production. “We are a country not based on nationalizing our business,” said Trump, who has repeatedly railed against socialism overseas and among Democrats.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.
The virus has caused a global pandemic that has sickened more than 425,000 people and killed about 19,000 worldwide. In the United States, more than 55,000 people have been sickened and more than 800 have died.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.