Adviser says White House is studying additional stimulus checks
White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said Tuesday that officials are studying the need for more stimulus checks to blunt the economic damage of the coronavirus, suggesting they could be part of a future relief package.
“I think that’s something that we are studying very carefully, that I know that people in the House are as well,” Hassett told reporters at the White House.
Hassett was responding to a question about whether he believed the one-time $1,200 stimulus payments sent to many Americans — which were authorized as part of a third relief package signed by President Trump at the end of March — would be enough to help those adversely affected by business closures.
Hassett characterized a future relief package as likely and suggested it was possible another round of stimulus payments could be part of such a package.
“I expect it is very likely there will be a phase four deal and we’re going to be speaking with the president throughout the week about what he thinks should be in there,” Hassett said.
“I know that Senator [Mitch] McConnell and Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi are working on that as well. So, I think the odds of there not being another round, at least another round of legislation are pretty low,” he continued.
Trump said in early April that he was weighing a second round of relief checks, telling reporters at a news conference it was “absolutely under serious consideration.”
Trump last week signed a $484 billion bill to replenish a small business lending program and provide financial support for hospitals and testing efforts. The legislation set the stage for negotiations between congressional leaders and the White House on a next relief package.
Trump signaled last week that he envisioned a future package including money for state and local governments, infrastructure funding, tax incentives for businesses purchasing meals and entertainment, and a payroll tax holiday.
Asked for his opinion on another round of stimulus checks later Tuesday, Trump indicated that he would prefer a payroll tax cut.
“I like the idea of payroll tax cuts, I have liked that from the beginning,” the president told reporters following an event in the East Room of the White House. “I think frankly it’s simple, it’s not the big distribution.”
The idea of a payroll tax cut has previously encountered pushback from Republicans and Democrats in Congress, however.
Hassett told reporters Tuesday that the administration’s economic policy was designed to “build a bridge to the other side” so that Americans would be able to pay their bills during the period of economic distress caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Stay-at-home restrictions across the country have forced businesses to close and lay off workers. As of last Thursday, more than 26 million Americans had newly filed for unemployment benefits in the last five weeks.
Americans who make $75,000 or less and couples who make $150,000 or less are eligible to receive the one-time $1,200 stimulus payments provided for by the $2.2 trillion CARES Act signed by Trump at the end of March. The payments decrease in value for individuals making up to $99,000 and couples earning up to $198,000.
—Updated at 5:12 p.m.