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"Every American adult should immediately receive a one-time check for $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy," Romney said Monday

By Adam Carlson
March 16, 2020 06:08 PM
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Utah Sen. Mitt Romney made a headline-grabbing proposal on Monday: Congress should “immediately send $1,000 checks to each American” as part of relief efforts from the federal government amid the escalating response to the novel coronavirus pandemic that has infected more than 170,000 people worldwide.

“Every American adult should immediately receive a one-time check for $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy. … While expansions of paid leave, unemployment insurance, and SNAP benefits are crucial, the check will help fill the gaps for Americans that may not quickly navigate different government options,” his office said in a news release, citing “similar action during the 2001 and 2008 recessions.”

Economic experts have said the disruption and uncertainty created by the coronavirus could be financially damaging not just to the airline and cruise industries — who have already sharply curtailed services — but to bars, restaurants and beyond, with many people upending their normal routines and spending patterns.

Romney laid out several other proposals on Monday.

He said health insurance should be expanded for telemedicine while people remain at home; grants to affected small businesses should be increased while customers avoid public areas; and student loans should be deferred for recent graduates.

He said he supported a recent relief bill that was passed by the House of Representatives and backed by President Donald Trump, which awaits a vote in the Senate.

Mitt Romney
Credit: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

“We also urgently need to build on this legislation with additional action to help families and small businesses meet their short-term financial obligations, ease the financial burden on students entering the workforce, and protect health workers on the front lines and their patients by improving telehealth services,” Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, said in a statement.

“I will be pushing these measures as Senate discussions continue about an additional relief package,” he said. (His call for a one-time payment echoes the key policy proposal of 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who wanted universal basic income.)

In recent weeks, health and government officials across the U.S. have increasingly called on people to practice “social distancing” by working from home, canceling schools and avoiding large events in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus that first emerged in China in December.

On Monday the White House said it was recommending people avoid any gatherings of larger than 10, while noting that employees of grocery stores and medical companies should focus on staying healthy and working as normal to provide essential services.

Some cities, counties and states have taken even stricter measures, such as closing bars and implementing curfews, in a large-scale effort to slow the rate of new infections so as not to overwhelm hospital resources.

Various levels of government have also announced aid measures including providing free meals to children whose schools are closed and freezing evictions based on coronavirus-related issues paying rent.

Novel Coronavirus
Credit: MARIJAN MURAT/dpa/AFP/Getty

The majority of people who contract the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus will experience mild or moderate symptoms, but a notable fraction will suffer severe complications. Those older than 60 and with underlying health conditions are at increased risk, and medical experts have repeatedly stressed the virus’ infectiousness — and the importance of avoiding public gatherings where possible.

Larry Kudlow, a top White House economic adviser, said Monday that the administration was not necessarily opposed to a nationwide payment such as the one Romney called for.

“We might” support it, he said, according to CNBC.

“The answer: ‘could be.’ ”

As of Monday afternoon, there were about 4,100 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. and 73 deaths.

To prevent the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages maintaining basic forms of hygiene including careful hand washing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing and staying home at signs of illness.