US government mulls unprecedented economic stimulus
By Jenny Lescohier18 March 2020
The coronavirus outbreak continues to worsen in the US, prompting Congress and the White House to consider the largest stimulus package in modern American history to address the economic effects of the pandemic on industries and individuals.
According to a report from Politico.com, the US government’s latest economic stimulus proposal is reaching into trillion-dollar territory as major industries clamor for aid.
Construction is among those industries seriously affected by the pandemic, and while work continues unabated in most areas for the time being, reports of work stoppages are steadily increasing. Officials with the Associated General Contractors of America say they are surveying their members to begin measuring the impact of coronavirus on ongoing projects.
“Given the precautions already in place, halting construction will do little to protect the health and safety of construction workers,” CEO Stephen E. Sandherr said in a statement. “But it will go a long way in undermining economic vitality by depriving millions of workers of the wages they will need over the coming days.”
He continued, “In the unfortunate event construction is halted, we urge construction owners to consider continuing their scheduled payments to contractors as a down payment for work to be completed on the project. These payments will help mitigate some of the potential economic impacts of construction shutdowns.”
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with Senate Republicans on 17 March to present options for aid to airlines, hotels, casinos and small-to-medium-sized businesses.
The White House had been discussing a package of more than $800 billion, according to reports, but has swiftly increased its proposal due to the unprecedented circumstances.
“This is not like a normal economic situation,” Mnuchin told Politico.com. “The government has requested that parts of this economy shut down.”
A US$1 trillion aid package would be larger than the US response to the 2008 financial crisis, amounting to nearly a quarter of what the US federal government spent last year, according to a report from BBC.com.
Mnuchin warned senators that if they didn’t reach a deal quickly, unemployment could be as high as 20 percent, according to reports.
The Trump administration is pushing to send direct payments to Americans in the next two weeks.
“Americans need cash now,” Mnuchin was quoted. “And the president wants to get cash now. And I mean now in the next two weeks.”
The size and scope of the proposed stimulus package are morphing rapidly as the economic and market damage mounts. CEOs, union leaders and lobbyists have been warning the administration of mass layoffs if the government does not help soon.
US markets, which have been in turmoil for weeks, rallied about 6% following the 17 March announcements about the proposed stimulus package.