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Democratic senator signals he might get in way of Trump's $1,000 coronavirus check plan

'Let this play out a bit'

Updated: March 18, 2020 - 2:17pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner is urging Congress to focus on workers who have been “disproportionately affected” by the coronavirus and to wait “a little bit” before cutting every family a $1,000 check.

“I know the president and some members of Congress have started talking about, ‘Let’s write every family a check.’ That’s a macroeconomic tool," the Virginia lawmaker said during a tele-town hall on Tuesday evening. "We may need to do that at some point."

However, Warner thinks such a program poses a "two-fold" dilemma – who gets a check and is the amount enough?

“I would be afraid that if we wrote every American family a check we would not put as much focus on those workers and individuals who have been disproportionately affected," he said. "Even if the check was $1,000, if you’re out of work, that $1,000 is not going to last you very long.” 

Warner spoke hours after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that President Trump wants to "get cash" to Americans quickly to deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus.

The Trump administration is considering sending direct payments of $1,000 to Americans, but the specifics of the plan have yet to be announced.

"You’ve only got the ability to do that [send checks] once so I would urge us to let this play out a little bit,” said Warner, a member of the Senate Finance and Budget committees. “Again, I’m not saying for weeks and weeks, but if we have to use that tool let’s use it only after we take care of those who are most in need."

Warner also said he mostly supports cash assistance in the form of loans and thinks those most impacted include Americans whose jobs are in jeopardy because they have to stay home and take care of children whose schools have closed.  

Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence committee, applauded the House coronavirus bill pending in the Senate for expanding unemployment insurance, calling it a “good step.”

However, he's calling for a broader measure called disaster unemployment insurance, which provides money to people who have not lost a job.

Warner said he’s putting together legislation that includes up to $1 trillion of “easily accessible small business lending” to companies that need a credit line.

Warner said there should be conditions set on any taxpayer dollars going to airlines, hotels and cruise lines hurt by coronavirus outbreak.

“Any money that I’m going to vote for, for these industries, I want to make absolutely sure that the money doesn’t end up in big executive compensation packages, that doesn’t end up in stock buy-backs,” he said.

When asked about help the government might give airlines on Tuesday, Mnuchin said, "This is worse than 9/11 for the airline industry – they are almost ground to a halt."


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