• Cotton says coronavirus relief efforts should focus on people who hold hourly workers who cannot telework and can't count on a paycheck
  • Cotton says the House package adopted last week is "well intentioned," but too complicated and "too small"
  • Mnuchin headed to Capitol Hill to present the administration's $850 billion emergency economic stimulus package

As Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin headed to Capitol Hill to pitch the administration’s $850 billion coronavirus economic stimulus package, Sen. Tom Cotton proposed giving monthly checks to low- and middle-income Americans to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

In a post on Medium, the Arkansas Republican said the $100 billion package adopted by the House last week is woefully inadequate for dealing with the crisis even though it provided for free testing for COVID-19, paid sick leave and expanded unemployment benefits.

“Our work must focus on efforts to help working Americans who hold hourly jobs, can’t telework, and can’t count on a paycheck. We must also help businesses that those workers rely on for jobs,” Cotton wrote, adding, “We must be prepared to spend whatever it takes to shelter Americans from the coming storm — and very likely to spend more than the House bill proposes. But what we spend must work.”

Cotton called the House bill “well intentioned” but too complicated. He also noted the sick-leave provision does not cover all workers, calling it a product of “too small” thinking.

“We should send relief directly to American families most likely to be in need — those in the bottom and middle tax brackets — to pay for rent, groceries, childcare, and other necessary expenses, as well as to spend at local businesses that are hurting during this crisis,” Cotton said.

“Giving relief directly to Americans is a better solution than complicated sick-leave policies or payroll tax cuts, and will be more certain to go to the kinds of hourly- or gig-workers who need it most.”

Cotton also recommended sending money to the states to expand unemployment benefits and offering low-interest loans to businesses to allow them to meet payroll.

“These measures would send a strong message to the American people that we have our priorities straight by helping working families, NOT giving handouts to special interests, or imposing new burdens at a time of national crisis,” Cotton said without offering a price tag.

Mnuchin told a White House news conference the administration was proposing sending cash directly to Americans and indicated the amount could be greater than the $1,000 per person being discussed in the press. He said the administration would like to cut checks within two weeks.