White House officials are working with congressional Republicans on an emergency stimulus package that could send two $1,000 checks to many Americans and also devote $300 billion towards helping small businesses avoid mass layoffs, according to two senior administration officials.
No final decisions have been made and talks with Republican leaders remain fluid, but the growing scale of the $1 trillion rescue plan is coming into sharper focus.
The White House will still need backing from Democrats before any plan can be pushed into law, but many Democrats have said they would support sending cash payments to Americans who are struggling to pay bills because of the virus's economic impact. Still, multiple levels of negotiations remain.
The White House's evolving spending plan could be unprecedented in its size and velocity, dwarfing the stimulus bill passed during the Obama administration and the Troubled Asset Relief Program passed during the Bush administration. The current $1 trillion Trump plan would seek to spend $500 billion towards the cash payments to individual Americans, though some people wouldn't qualify if their income is over a certain level.
The White House discussions with Republicans would aim to spend another $50 billion to help rescue the airline industry and $150 billion to prop up other sectors, which could include hotels, among others. Some Democrats have raised concerns about how these funds might be used and have called for putting restrictions on firms that receive emergency assistance to assure that employees aren't laid off while executives pocket large bonuses.
One of the goals of the White House's decision to seek $300 billion for small businesses in the plan would be to help firms continue paying employees, as there has already been a wave of layoffs, particularly at restaurants and other companies where business was suddenly halted as millions of Americans began staying at home under government warnings about contagion.
The package doesn't, at this point, include some of the big tax cuts that President Donald Trump had sought only a few days ago. White House officials pivoted away from the tax cuts after Democrats and Republicans largely panned the idea, and Trump expressed concern that it would take too long for these benefits to filter through to the economy.
White House officials have scrambled in recent days to assemble a massive rescue plan as large parts of the U.S. economy show signs of buckling. The Dow Jones industrial average has fallen more than 9,000 points in one month. Many businesses and schools are closed, and Americans have cancelled travel plans as many avoid unneeded social contact. There are now more than 6,000 cases of coronavirus in the United States, and more than 1,000 new cases were confirmed on Tuesday. Economic and health disruptions are expected to last for months.