The Trump administration is looking to send cheques to US citizens in the next two weeks to try to curb the economic cost of the coronavirus outbreak, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says.
“The President has instructed me we have to do this now,” he said at a White House briefing on Wednesday (US time).
Mr Mnuchin didn’t give details except to say the amount should be significant and millionaires would not get it. Since then, Reuters has reported the cheques will be for $US1000 ($A1670) – and part of a $US1 trillion stimulus package.
“We want to make sure Americans get money in their pockets quickly,” Mr Mnuchin said.
The US stock market rose during the briefing after a savage drop on Monday.
The White House on Tuesday (local time) was asking Congress to approve a massive emergency rescue package to help businesses as well as taxpayers cope with the economic crisis that is paired with the pandemic.
It came as New York, the United States’ most populous, considered ordering people to stay at home except for emergencies or shopping for essentials. A similar order has already been imposed in San Francisco.
The number of reported COVID-19 cases in the US has surged past 5800 and deaths are approaching 100. Meanwhile, millions of Americans have hunkered down in their homes as major cities escalated “social distancing” policies by closing schools, bars, restaurants and theatres.
Mr Mnuchin planned to outline the proposed stimulus package to Senate Republicans on Tuesday. Officials hope to have Congress approve it this week.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who opened the Senate on Tuesday morning, promised swift action.
“The Senate will not adjourn until we have passed significant and bold new steps above and beyond what the House has passed to help our strong nation and our strong underlying economy weather this storm,” Mr McConnell said.
Bigger than the 2008 bank bailout or the 2009 recovery act, the White House proposal aims to provide a massive tax cut for wage-earners, $US50 billion ($83 billion) for the airline industry and relief for small businesses.
Mr Mnuchin said the COVID-19 pandemic had almost brought airlines to a halt. The situation now was worse for them than after the September 11 terrorist attacks, he said.
Mr Trump last week announced the US would halt travel from Europe to combat the spread of the coronavirus.