US Senator Ed Markey said Sunday that he wants the federal government to send as much as $5.7 trillion in direct monthly payments to American households, a measure that he says is intended to match the enormity of the economic crisis that has attended the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Massachusetts Democrat joined Senate colleagues Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders last week to propose a bill that would provide $2,000 per month to people with incomes below $120,000 in the US until the crisis subsides. In a news conference Sunday, he compared the plan to the New Deal programs laid out by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression.
“My feeling is that we’re at an FDR moment, where we have to respond to this crisis in a way that’s realistic,” Markey said.
The proposal will be a tough sell in the Republican-controlled Senate, where the one-time payments of about $1,200 for individuals in a previous stimulus bill sparked extensive debate before passing into law.
And the Trump administration has not been in a rush to complete another stimulus package. Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s top economic adviser, said last week that formal negotiations on measures including aid to states and cities were on pause at least until later this month ― though informal talks were continuing.
The bill being pushed by Markey would send up to $10,000 to some families. It would provide $2,000 per child for up to three children, along with $4,000 for married couples who meet the income requirements and file jointly.
The payments would be retroactive to March, and Markey’s office said the bill contains measures barring debt collectors from seizing the money.
Markey acknowledged Sunday that the measure would be expensive. He said it could cost nearly $600 billion per month, and the payments would last for three months after the US health secretary declared the public health emergency to be over. The total cost could reach approximately $5.7 trillion if the crisis persists beyond 2020, Markey said.
“But it is essential, because that money is the life raft that will help families to make it through this health care crisis without being economically destroyed,” Markey said. “We have to help people who, through no fault of their own, are seeing all of the things that they care about being under assault.”
The spending would be on top of other needed relief programs, such as help for state and local governments. Markey was joined in his virtual news conference by Somerville Mayor Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, who said the economic strain on municipalities could be extreme as state aid dries.
“We need to keep our communities running,” he said. “We’re going to see massive hits to our essential programs.”