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Coronavirus

Trump wants to send cash to Americans in coronavirus stimulus

President retreats from payroll tax holiday for quick action

President Donald Trump speaks during a press briefing with the coronavirus task force, at the White House on March 17.   © AP

WASHINGTON -- An $850 billion stimulus proposed Tuesday by the White House will include direct cash payments to workers, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at a briefing by the administration's coronavirus task force.

"We're looking at sending checks to Americans immediately," Mnuchin said. "Americans need cash now. And the president wants to get cash now. And I mean now in the next two weeks."

The Trump administration is proposing $800 billion stimulus designed to combat a looming recession caused by a wave of store and restaurant closures. It will be bundled together with a roughly $50 billion bailout for the airline industry.

U.S. President Donald Trump already signed a $8.3 billion emergency package on March 6, and the House of Representatives passed a second-round stimulus bill on Monday. Now legislators and the White House are wrangling over what a massive third-round package will look like.

The administration is "working with the Senate to pass this legislation very quickly," Mnuchin told reporters.

The proposal comes at time when other developed countries are also readying stimulus packages. In Japan, leaders of the ruling and opposition parties agreed Tuesday to form a group to hammer out measures for this fiscal year's supplementary budget that address the coronavirus epidemic. It will hold its first meeting this week and will discuss a wide range of issues -- from securing a supply of medical equipment to providing support to households and businesses.

In the U.K., Rishi Sunak, the finance minister, said struggling companies would be able to access 330 billion pounds ($399 billion) in government loans and guarantees. Commercial property taxes would also be frozen on retail and leisure companies while 20 billion pounds in subsidies would be provided to the nation's smallest businesses. This comes on top of 30 billion-pound package announced March 11.

"We will do whatever it takes," Sunak said.

The idea of providing Americans with $1,000 cash payments is associated with former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who advocated monthly payments as a universal basic income strategy.

Different from Yang's plan, the administration is unlikely to provide the payments to everyone. "Obviously some people shouldn't be getting checks for $1,000," Trump said.

Trump seeks to push forward the unprecedented moves to spark a V-shaped recovery before the November presidential election.

Congressional Democrats are also keen on passing a massive stimulus program. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday he will submit a $750 billion package that will include financial aid for the recently unemployed and workers forced to take unpaid leave. Spending will also support online learning, as well as guarantee medicine and food for the elderly.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average responded positively to Tuesday's stimulus proposal, gaining just over 1,000 points, or 5%. The increase helped salve the pain from a day earlier, when the Dow plunged by nearly 3,000 points in the blackest Monday since 1987.

Monday's crash came despite the U.S. Federal Reserve Board cutting rates to near zero on Sunday, showing monetary policy alone is not enough to assuage concerns among corporations and investors.

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