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Principles for Direct Payments to American Families

The Bipartisan Policy Center supports the Trump administration’s call for rapid action by the Congress on a broad-based package to support the American economy, households, and businesses during this national emergency. Specifically, reports describe an overall package totaling approximately $1 trillion, of which $500 billion would be cash payments to individuals. The cash would reportedly be disbursed in two rounds, with the first payment beginning April 6 and the second payment beginning May 18. 

BPC recommends that the assistance be applied using the following five principles:

  1. The level of support should be significant and meaningful for the majority of those receiving such aid. It also needs to be large enough to prop up demand in the overall economy. BPC believes the administration’s proposal provides a good starting point. Any approach will need to be revisited as the uncertain situation evolves.
  2. The support must  be provided quickly, which most likely can be done most efficiently by the Internal Revenue Service based on 2019 income filings.
  3. The aid should be means tested, limiting support to households with incomes of less than $250,000 (or individuals with incomes less than $125,000).
  4. Payments should not impact a household’s eligibility for any other income assistance program provided by federal or state law. Thus, flexibility in asset tests will be necessary.
  5. The program should be temporary and designed to end once America is again open for business.

BPC believes that in this time of serious economic disruptionimpacting so many families and individualsbold action is required. No single policy will be the silver bullet, so the best ideas on both sides should be considered expeditiously. Among them, providing immediate aid to families and individuals through direct payments will help mitigate the economic fallout that is growing by the day. 

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