The United States House of Representatives passed a bill in excess of $2 trillion to help the United States get relief from the coronavirus epidemic.
The bill was originally crafted in the senate, and has been debated in the house through much of this week. The bill now has to be signed by President Donald Trump.
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney hosted a question and answer session with journalists throughout the state Wednesday to discuss the economic stimulus bill.
“This will make a real difference for our state,” Romney said.
One of the key features of the bill is a $1,200 check being sent to every adult in the country. The money will be issued using tax filing information, so those who have their tax returns direct deposited into their accounts will receive it that way. Those who did not file with the Internal Revenue Service due to living on Social Security will likely have to wait longer.
“In 2008, when President Bush announced checks, it took 12 weeks,” Romney said. He said the treasury secretary indicated that checks could start going out to people in as early as two weeks.
“Hopefully it will be a lot quicker than the 12 weeks,” Romney said.
Another part of the bill is that unemployment insurance benefits will be expanded by $600 a week. Romney said he and other Republicans resisted the $600 amount initially, as it could conceivably incentivize unemployment as some people may actually make more with the insurance than they did while employed.
“It’s important to remember that it will only last four months,” Romney said. He said only people who are fired as a result of the coronavirus slamming of the economy will be eligible for the expanded benefits.
A portion of the bill with ramifications for small business is a loan program.
“They can apply for loans through their lending institutions,” Romney said. He said as long as the loans are used for payroll and expenses incidental to keeping a business operating, at the end of the year the loans can be forgiven.
A similar program for larger corporations was also included in the bill.
There is also $150 billion slated to go to states and towns, approximately $1 billion of which is headed to Utah to help pay for costs associated with the COVID-19 response.
Once the COVID-19 social distancing/isolation/quarantines are lifted, Romney said the expectation is the economy will come back rapidly. However, in the meantime, there is a lot of uncertainty.
“We don’t know how deep the decline will be in the interim,” Romney said. “We’ve never seen numbers like this … we’ve never seen anything like this in our lifetime.”
Romney himself is also affected by the social distancing of COVID-19. He tested negative for the virus earlier in the week, and reiterated the importance of social distancing.
He said older people should consider maintaining social distancing and isolation longer than young people.
“It can still be serious for young people,” Romney said. He said several younger people have died or become seriously ill with the virus, so it’s important for everyone to follow the measures being put into place.
“Utah has put together the most comprehensive plan for dealing with this that I’ve seen,” Romney said. “I wish we had anywhere near that at the federal level.”
As more information becomes available on the stimulus package, including when people can expect to see checks or direct deposits, it will be posted online at romney.senate.gov. For coronavirus information in Utah, log onto coronavirus.utah.gov.