Trump says coronavirus stimulus checks could be ‘way higher’ than $1,200; extension of unemployment checks floated

As negotiations continue on the next round of pandemic-related economic aid, President Donald Trump signaled that a direct cash payment to American families could be “way higher” than the amount Republicans proposed in their version of the stimulus bill.

Trump on Wednesday told a Texas television station that he imagines the second stimulus check would be more than the $1,200 that was included in the package proposed by Senate Republicans in the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act.

"It may go higher than that actually," Trump said. "I'd like to see it be very high because I love the people. I want the people to get it."

The stimulus plan that GOP senators released Monday proposes a one-time payment of $1,200 for individuals who earn a gross adjusted income of up to $75,000. Couples earning up to $150,000 would receive $2,400. For higher earners, the checks will be reduced by $5 for every $100 in income and phased out entirely at $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for couples.

An additional $500 would be paid per dependent. The CARES Act limited the number of dependents to three, but it is unclear if such a cap would be included in the current bill.

Unlike the CARES Act, the current proposal permits families to receive a payment for dependents over the age of 17.

The proposed legislation also includes a continuation of federal unemployment benefits, an issue that has stalled negotiations over the HEALS Act.

On Thursday, the White House offered a short-term extension of the $600 weekly federal unemployment benefit, but Democrats rejected the offer that would include an additional one-week extension. They say they are not interested in a short-term fix, rather the assurance of ongoing federal benefits.

The payments end Friday.

“They want to do one small thing that won’t solve the problem,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., claimed Republicans do not understand the scope of the problem.

“We have to have a bill, but they just don’t realize how big it has to be,” Pelosi said.

Several Republicans have speculated that the $600 benefit created a disincentive to find work for some individuals who most likely would qualify only for low-paying jobs.

The two sides are trying to reconcile a $3 trillion bill (the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act or HEROES Act), passed by House Democrats in May, with the $1 trillion legislation the GOP-lead Senate introduced on Monday.

Leaders on both sides blame the other for slow progress on the bill that is being negotiated after a report on Thursday that the economy shrank in the second quarter at an annualized rate of 33%.

“On certain issues, we made progress,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday. “The speaker and Sen. Schumer said—and we feel the same way—that it is our objective to try to reach an agreement that’s good for the American people.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell took a procedural step Thursday that could allow voting on a bill next week. The Senate is adjourned for the weekend.

McConnell said Thursday that negotiations with Pelosi and Schumer have been difficult.

“They won’t engage. Period,” McConnell said. “The Democrats are saying, ‘my way or the highway.’”

McConnell did say Senate negotiators were examining some of the proposals from the HEROES Act.

“The economy does need more help. We have to talk to each other,” he said on “PBS NewsHour.” “And we have to try to get an outcome.”

The impasse has centered on a HEROES Act proposal that calls for nearly $1 trillion for local governments, something Trump and Republicans are, so far, not inclined to approve.