McCon­nell pro­poses $1,200 pay­ments

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - FRONT PAGE - By An­drew Tay­lor and Lisa Mas­caro

WASHINGTON >> Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell pro­posed di­rect pay­ments of $1,200 per per­son and $2,400 for cou­ples as part of an ini­tial Repub­li­can re­sponse Thurs­day to the coro­n­avirus out­break.

The GOP leader un­veiled his plan as Congress raced to craft a $1 tril­lion res­cue package to shore up house­holds, health­care and the U.S. econ­omy amid the pan­demic cri­sis and na­tion­wide shut­down that’s hurtling the country to­ward a likely re­ces­sion.

“We need to take bold and swift ac­tion as soon as possible,” McCon­nell, an­nounc­ing his plan on the Se­nate floor.

It’s an open­ing salvo in fast-track talks with Democrats as Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump urges Congress to “go big” to re­spond as Amer­i­cans reel from the cri­sis.

Un­der the GOP leader’s plan, the aid would be phased out at in­come thresh­olds of $75,000 for in­di­vid­u­als and $150,000 per cou­ple. Ad­di­tion­ally, there would be $500 pay­ments for each child.

McCon­nell’s pro­posal aligns with the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s push to swiftly send a first round of checks to Amer­i­can house­holds for im­me­di­ate needs.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the McCon­nell plan would pro­vide $300 bil­lion in loans to small busi­nesses, in­clud­ing loans that would even­tu­ally be for­given for em­ploy­ers

who use them to meet pay­roll ex­penses.

Keep­ing pay­checks flow­ing for idled work­ers as job­less claims sky­rocket is a top pri­or­ity for both Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic plans emerg­ing from Congress. But how best to send di­rect pay­ments to Amer­i­cans — as one-time stipends, on­go­ing pay­roll sup­port or un­em­ploy­ment checks — is a cru­cial de­bate.

Democrats have their own pro­pos­als for ush­er­ing aid to Amer­i­cans, and even McCon­nell’s GOP sen­a­tors panned Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Steven Mnuchin’s idea of di­rect checks of $3,000 for a fam­ily of four — pre­fer­ring in­stead to use the fed­eral dol­lars to keep work­ers who are asked to stay home on the busi­ness pay­rolls.

“What I want is in­come, not one check,” said Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., sum­ming up the views of some ex­it­ing a long, pri­vate meet­ing of GOP sen­a­tors on Capi­tol Hill.

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing Mnuchin and eco­nomic ad­viser Larry Kud­low, are ex­pected to re­turn

to Capi­tol Hill on Fri­day to launch bi­par­ti­san ne­go­ti­a­tions with Se­nate Democrats.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on a con­fer­ence call with more than 220 House Democrats, urged them to “think big,” ac­cord­ing to peo­ple on the call granted anonymity to dis­cuss it.

Pelosi re­minded them af­ter her re­cent talk with Fed­eral Re­serve Chair­man Jerome Pow­ell that in­ter­est rates are low. The out­lay should be con­sid­ered an in­vest­ment, Pelosi told them.

Democrats com­pil­ing their own pri­or­i­ties in the House and Se­nate sug­gest other ways to keep pay­checks flow­ing in what Se­nate Demo­cratic Leader Chuck Schumer called “em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance” — which he char­ac­ter­ized as “un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance on steroids.”

Schumer said uti­liz­ing the ex­ist­ing un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance sys­tem run by the states would be a “quick and easy” way to dis­trib­ute money to the newly job­less.

“Peo­ple des­per­ately need it,” Schumer said.

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