Sen. Mitch McConnell Introduces Coronavirus Relief Package With Cash Payments

Mar 19, 2020
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ALISA CHANG, HOST:

Republicans have released their proposal for the latest round of coronavirus relief efforts. This latest package could total more than $1 trillion as lawmakers rush to prevent economic disaster.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: The point is to help small business endure, help workers keep their jobs and help both businesses and workers emerge from this ready to thrive.

CHANG: The bill includes cash relief for many Americans, as well as several other measures intended to stabilize the economy. Here to walk us through the details is NPR congressional correspondent Kelsey Snell.

Hey, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Hi, there.

CHANG: All right, so let's start with the major elements in this bill. What can you tell us?

SNELL: Well, let's start with those cash payments that you mentioned. They - the bill includes $1,200 per person with a phaseout for individuals earning over $75,000 or couples earning over $150,000. So the payments would ramp down if you make over that amount. And it would - they would eventually just go away. Plus, there's $500 per child.

I think some of the interesting things people might notice is there's also an allowance for students to defer student loan payments on federal loans, and they would move back the tax filing deadline for most people to July 15. On the business side, the small business part has been getting a lot of attention. A lot of elements there, but the big focus is on fee-free forgivable loans. So businesses with 500 employees or less could spend the money on payroll through the end of June. And if they spend it that way, the loans would be forgiven.

CHANG: OK. So what about relief for the airline industry? I mean, President Trump had promised them bailouts. Is that in this bill as well?

SNELL: Yes, that is in here. What it includes is a $208 billion in loan guarantees for those bigger industries, people like the airline industry, potentially for the cruise industry or for hotels. There's $50 billion for airlines specifically. But there's another $150 billion in there for industries that we're not sure which ones they are. It's unclear who would get that money.

Republicans have been very careful to point out about these loans here is that they are just that; they're loans. They have to be repaid. Unlike those small business loans we were talking about before that could be forgiven, these are not structured that way. They want the big businesses to get the money now to stay afloat, but they have to pay it back.

CHANG: These are not handouts.

SNELL: Right. Exactly.

CHANG: OK, so do we even know if Democrats will get behind this? I mean, how quickly do you think this thing will pass?

SNELL: Well, some of the things that Democrats have raised actually are related to those - the big industry payments that we were talking about. Democrats want to make sure that companies can't use that money for stock buybacks. They want to make sure that big places like the airlines have to use it for keeping up their payroll, too.

So there are a number of places where Democrats agree. And they were kept in the loop throughout this entire negotiating process, and they knew what was being discussed, but they didn't have a say. Now they have a chance to offer adds and make changes in the coming days. And from what I understand, the goal is to have it done by the end of next week. Now, that's really fast, and you know that Congress doesn't always do things very quickly.

CHANG: (Laughter) Yes, I do know that.

SNELL: But they do say that there is a huge rush here. They know that the economy is hurting, and Congress wants to get this to the president's desk as quickly as humanly possible.

CHANG: All right, that's NPR's Kelsey Snell.

Thank you, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.