In a Wednesday interview with Fox Business, President Trump said he supports a second round of direct payments to individuals—it’s the first time he has publicly declared his support for the idea, which has been the subject of vehement debate among lawmakers in Washington in recent weeks.
“I actually support larger numbers than the Democrats,” he said, “but it’s got to be done properly.”
The CARES Act authorized the IRS to send direct payments of $1,200 to qualifying Americans, plus $500 for dependent children under age 17; those payments started going out in April.
Last week, the Washington Post reported that even though Trump had privately voiced his support for another round of checks, some officials in his administration aren’t on board.
According to the Post report, which cited three people familiar with the White House’s internal deliberations, Trump believes more direct payments will help prop up the economy and bolster his chances of reelection in November.
Trump also alluded to the future of the $600 per week federal unemployment benefit—set to expire at the end of July—established by the CARES Act: “We had something…where it gave you a disincentive to work last time,” he said. “We want to create a very great incentive to work.”
Senate Democrats on Wednesday introduced a plan to extend the extra federal unemployment benefits and then phase out them gradually when state unemployment levels reach certain thresholds.
“I want the money getting to people to be larger so they can spend it,” Trump said after he was asked whether he wanted larger stimulus checks or larger federal unemployment benefits. “I want the money to get there quickly and in a non-complicated fashion.”
160.4 million direct payments were sent out by the IRS under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act signed by President Trump in March. All in, those payments were worth $269 billion.
As the U.S. faces an alarming spike in new coronavirus cases and with several key CARES Act provisions—like expanded unemployment insurance and the Paycheck Protection Program—on the verge of running out, lawmakers in Washington are still arguing over what the next federal relief package should look like. On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)—who has said the Senate will consider new legislation in July—to restart coronavirus relief discussions immediately. The $3 trillion Heroes Act—a sweeping piece of economic rescue legislation that included aid for state and local governments and another round of stimulus checks—passed the House last month but has been widely criticized by Republicans and is unlikely to pass the Senate in its current form.