The US Treasury Department wants to start issuing direct payments to Americans by early next month as the centrepiece of a trillion-dollar (£840 billion) plan to stabilise the economy as the coronavirus pandemic threatens taxpayers and businesses.
In a memorandum issued on Wednesday, the Treasury calls for two 250 billion dollar (£210 billion) cash infusions to individuals: a first set of cheques issued starting on April 6, with a second wave in mid-May.
The amounts would depend on income and family size.
The Treasury plan, which requires approval by Congress, also recommends 50 billion dollars (£42 billion) to stabilise the airlines, 150 billion dollars (£126 billion) to issue loan guarantees to other struggling sectors, and 300 billion dollars (£252 billion) for small businesses.
The plan appears to anticipate that many of the loans would not be repaid.
The Treasury outline provides a basis for legislators to work from in an unprecedented government response and is likely to be broadened to include additional emergency funding for federal agencies.
The price tag for the economic package alone promises to exceed the Treasury’s trillion-dollar request, a scale of rescue plan not seen since the Great Recession.
Donald Trump wants cheques sent to the public within two weeks — a huge logistical task — and is urging Congress to pass the eye-popping stimulus package in a matter of days. A more realistic timeframe is next week.
LIVE: Press Briefing with Coronavirus Task Force https://t.co/3WQV4egsWc— The White House (@WhiteHouse) March 18, 2020
Overnight, the White House sent legislators a separate 46 billion dollar emergency funding request to boost medical care for military service members and veterans, fund production of vaccines and medicines, build 13 quarantine centres at the southern border for migrants and make federal buildings safer, among other purposes.
The Trump request also reverses cuts to the Centres for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health that the president proposed in his February budget for next year and would create a 3 billion dollar fund for unanticipated needs.
Economists doubted that the massive economic rescue package would be enough to stop millions of jobs losses, even if in the short term.
Mr Trump also announced he will invoke a federal provision that allows the government to marshal the private sector in response to the pandemic.
The president, appearing in the White House briefing room for the third day in a row, said he would sign the Defence Production Act “in case we need it” as the government bolsters resources for an expected surge in cases.
He also said he will expand testing capacity and deploy a navy hospital ship to New York City, which is rapidly becoming the epicentre of the pandemic in the US.
A second ship will be deployed to the West Coast.
The president also said the Housing and Urban Development Department will suspend foreclosures and evictions until April as a growing number of Americans face losing jobs and missing rent and mortgage payments.
Meanwhile, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said his government is deferring tax payments until August, providing a wage subsidy for small businesses and pausing student loan payments as part of a massive stimulus package.
He said the government is focused on making sure Canadians have the money they need to support their families, buy groceries and pay the rent. Up to 82 billion Canadian dollars (£48 billion) is being spent. The money is about 3% of Canada’s gross domestic product.
Mr Trudeau said he will provide employers of small businesses with a temporary wage subsidy equal to 10% of the salary paid to employees for a period of three months, to encourage employers to keep staff on the payroll.