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17 Mar, 2020 16:39

White House promises big bucks to airlines…and Americans will get a check too

White House promises big bucks to airlines…and Americans will get a check too

US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has promised immediate financial relief “within the next two weeks” to Americans hit hard by the coronavirus recession - plus a massive financial aid package for the airline industry.

The Trump administration will be sending a check to Americans within the next two weeks for an undetermined amount, Mnuchin announced at a press conference on Tuesday.

While the figure of $1,000 has been frequently floated, Mnuchin implied the real figure will be larger. 

“We want to make sure Americans get money in their pocket quickly,” he said, adding that a "payroll tax holiday" for longer-term financial relief of six to eight months is also in the works.

The administration is scrambling to provide relief to Americans facing layoffs, shift reductions, and work slowdowns because of the coronavirus epidemic, a problem made all the worse by the fact that so few are able to save money for emergencies. The administration’s plans for a “stimulus package for the American worker” have so far been vague, but the idea of sending Americans checks - floated by members of Congress in both parties - has rapidly gained popularity.

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While Mnuchin implied an income cutoff to the immediate financial stimulus, suggesting “people who make a million dollars a year” would not be getting help, he also announced a massive $300 billion tax deferral.

Americans can defer up to $1 million in taxes interest-free for 90 days, and small businesses will be able to defer $10 million.

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The treasury secretary was reluctant to provide exact figures for industry-specific aid, but promised massive a package for the stricken airline industry. “This is worse than 9/11, for the airline industry, they are almost ground to a halt,” he said, stressing that while the administration wanted Americans to avoid unnecessary travel, it wanted to maintain the ability to have air travel domestically where critically needed.

Asked about an aid package for the restaurant industry, which has been one of the hardest-hit by the epidemic due to quarantines and safety precautions, Mnuchin urged state governments to allow fast food restaurants to keep their drive-through lanes open and promoted the use of delivery and takeout apps to maintain social distancing.

President Donald Trump promised a massive financial stimulus was making its way through Congress, expressing impatience with the piecemeal aid packages that had been passed so far. “We’re going big, and that’s the way it’ll be,” he told reporters.

Both men made a point of reassuring Americans that markets and banks would not close. “We absolutely believe in keeping the markets open,” Mnuchin said. “Americans need to know they have access to their money…we are going to do everything to make sure they have access to the money in their banks, to the money in their 401ks, to the money in their stocks.” 

“The banks are record-setting strong,” Trump insisted.

After meeting with Senate Republicans later in the afternoon, Mnuchin appeared to have scaled back his expectations of immediate action, calling the stimulus package an “ongoing discussion.” He explained the proposal would inject $1 trillion into the economy on top of the deferred tax payments, through a combination of loans, direct checks to individuals, and “creating liquidity for businesses.” 

He dismissed concerns about the country’s ballooning budget shortfalls, stating “this is not the time to worry about” the deficit, and hinted at industry-specific stimulus for not only airlines but the hotels, travel, and cargo sectors.

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