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Republican Tom Cotton proposes cash stipend for families amid coronavirus crisis

Trump says coronavirus could last until August

Republican Senator Tom Cotton is proposing that the federal government send American families cash stipends so they can afford basic needs as the coronavirus grinds American life to a halt, keeps many from working, and plunges the economy into a possible recession. 

Cotton, a conservative Republican from Arkansas, released the framework of a proposal Tuesday that includes authorizing the Treasury Department to cut a $1,000 tax-rebate check to every adult tax filer who earns under $100,000, and $500 for every dependent. Under Cotton's proposal, any couples who file taxes jointly and make less than $200,000 a year could receive a $2,000 tax-rebate check. 

"I'm working on legislation to get cash stipends to affected workers and their families so they can buy food and pay the bills during this crisis, plus help to small and mid-sized businesses weather the storm. Now is the time to avoid Italy's fate," Cotton tweeted Monday.

Cotton's proposal also calls for expanded eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits, wider access to food assistance and expanded access to loans for small businesses. 

He joins Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who is proposing that each American adult receive a one-time $1,000 payment from the federal government — similar to an initiative proposed by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who campaigned on a platform of universal basic income. 

"I'm pumped about it actually," Yang tweeted when "The Daily Show" pointed out that Yang had been pitching universal basic income long before now.

That proposal of some form of basic income or cash stipend, particularly from Republicans, highlights the severity of the financial road ahead. Markets experienced one of their worst days on record Monday, as the number of cases increases and the number of shuttered businesses and schools continues to climb. 

Some lawmakers, like Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii, insist assistance should be more targeted. 

"Cash payments are better than corporate bailouts but there are people who need much more than a thousand bucks and people who or just don't need a thousand bucks. So let's target the needy, including gig workers, underemployed, caregivers and others," Schatz tweeted Monday. 

The Senate is expected to take up a House-passed bill meant to address the financial needs of Americans unable to work due to the crisis. And lawmakers are indicating more legislation is yet to come to help American industry and workers. 

President Trump on Monday warned the coronavirus outbreak could last until July or August, after issuing new guidelines recommending Americans gather in groups no larger than 10, and that restaurants and bars close in areas with a high concentration of cases.

"They think August, it could be July," he said at a press briefing Monday, referring to members of the White House task force. "Could be longer than that. But I've asked that question many, many times."

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