U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and 17 other senators are urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to support a proposal to offer a $2,000 cash payment to people who receive certain government benefits.
The money would go to those receiving Social Security, Veterans Affairs or Supplemental Security Income benefits and every child or dependent of a person receiving such benefits, along with additional, reduced payments depending on how long the ongoing coronavirus outbreak continues.
Aside from Udall, the measure is backed by numerous other U.S. senators, including early Democratic presidential primary contenders Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California.
"In addition to presenting a massive public health challenge, the Coronavirus will cause a severe economic shock, the immediacy and magnitude of which we may never have seen," the senators wrote in a letter to McConnell.
The letter noted that within a week, U.S. businesses across the country have virtually shut down. For workers who relied on businesses that have dramatically scaled back, cut workers' hours or started layoffs, the potential economic burden is immense.
"We must provide direct cash support to the American workers and families who need it most — to help them purchase essentials; pay the rent, mortgage, and bills; and otherwise weather the coming weeks and months," the letter continued.
Republicans in Congress, meanwhile, are offering a potentially further-reaching package as Americans brace for what will likely be a severe economic downturn, economists have warned.
Republicans' proposal is not limited to taxpayers already receiving government assistance: President Donald Trump said Tuesday in a White House press briefing that he's pushing for a $1,000 check for every American a day after Utah Sen. Mitt Romney called for the measure.
The proposal now has bipartisan support.
Overall, the White House will ask Congress to approve $500 billion in direct payments to U.S. taxpayers and $300 billion to help small businesses stay open, according to an outline of the plan, the New York Times reported.