Andrew Yang may have dropped out of the presidential race months ago, but his idea for a universal basic income has made a home in the minds of the American politicians. If not as a public welfare plan, then perhaps as a viable coronavirus relief program.
Utah Senator Mitt Romney wants the government to give a $1,000 check to every American adult as the spread of the coronavirus increasingly cripples the economy. Republican lawmaker, Senator Tom Cotton from Arkansas, is also proposing cash stipends to help people with their bills. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated at a White House press briefing on Tuesday that “Americans need cash now,” meaning “in the next two weeks.”
On the other side of the political spectrum, Democratic Representatives Tim Ryan of Ohio and Ro Khanna of California have indicated support for a $1,000 payment to adults as part of a plan laid out by former President Barack Obama’s chief economist Jason Furman. Rep. Katie Porter, another Democrat from the state of California, tweeted her support for Romney’s proposal on Monday.
The concept of UBI did not make the commute from the labs of northern California into the mainstream until a global pandemic landed in the United States, forcing the closure of businesses across cities and states. Policy-makers are quickly realizing that with income about to completely dry up for workers at bars, movie theaters, restaurants, and hotels, millions of non-salaried Americans living hand to mouth could soon be unable to afford food, rent, and utility bills.
The House of Representatives passed a “coronavirus relief bill” on Saturday, as legislators from all over the country prepared to implement rules that would force residents to stay home. While the bill requires health plans to cover testing at no cost, ensure that large employers offer two weeks of paid sick leave, offer payroll tax credits for employers providing leave benefits and provide funding for state unemployment benefits and local food assistance, there’s nothing about sending money directly to families.
“Every American adult should immediately receive a one-time check for $1,000 to help ensure families and workers can meet their short-term obligations and increase spending in the economy,” Senator Romney said in a press release as the bill makes its way into the senate.