WASHINGTON - Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced on Thursday that the first round of stimulus checks will be directly deposited into Americans’ bank accounts in the next two weeks.
When the checks -- a key part of the massive $2.2. trillion coronavirus stimulus bill that President Trump signed last week -- will be sent out has been a major subject of debate as the U.S. economy continues to reel from the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. There had been rumors that it could five weeks to get the first checks out, but Mnuchin said previously said it would take three weeks.
“I told you it would be three weeks, now I’m telling you it will be two weeks,” Mnuchin said during a press briefing on Thursday. “It is not going to take five weeks, I’m assuring the American public. They need the money now."
People who file their taxes as individuals are eligible for payments up to $1,200, but that decreases for people who earn an adjusted gross income of more than $75,000 a year. The bill says that the payment is reduced by five percent of every dollar above that mark, or $50 for every $1,000 above $75,000.
What that ultimately means is that for people who make more than $75,000 the payment is less the higher their earnings are, with it being reduced to zero for those who make $99,000 or more.
Married couples who file a joint tax return are eligible for a payment of up to $2,400, plus and additional $500 per child. However, that amount decreases for couples whose adjusted gross income is more than $150,000 in a year at the same rate of 5 percent of every dollar above that mark.
This translates to less money the more people make, with it being reduced to zero for joint filers without children who earn $198,000 or more. A family would receive $500 per child.
There has been a great deal of concern about people who don’t file tax returns or who don’t have bank accounts. Mnuchin said he concerned about people who are “underbanked,” and said the administration will send checks to those who don’t have bank accounts.
The treasury secretary added, however, that the federal government prefers to deposit the stimulus directly into people’s bank accounts given the current public health crisis.
“We can process a lot of checks but we don’t want to send checks in this environment,” he said. “We want to put the money directly into people’s accounts.”
The main way people contract the coronavirus is through touching surfaces or items in which an infected person has also touched.
Recent studies have found that the virus can live up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel. When aerosolized into fine, floating particles – via a cough or sneeze, for example - the virus remained viable for three hours.
This is why public health officials are warning Americans to frequently disinfect commonly touched surfaces and to wash your hands multiple times a day with soap and water for at least twenty seconds.
Vice President Mike Pence noted that the president will announce a plan Friday to pay for uninsured Americans to get coronavirus treatment -- using some of the $100 billion allotted to hospitals in the recent stimulus bill
During the press conference, President Trump also said Wednesday that he had invoked the Defense Protection Act to force 3M to ramp up the production of N95 respirator masks, which are urgently needed by health care workers across the country.
3M Chief Executive Mike Roman said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Thursday that it will be months before the company meet the demands needed during the pandemic.
3M and half dozen smaller competitors are making about 50 million of N95 masks each month, which falls far short of the 300 million masks the Department of Health and Human Services estimated in March that health-care workers in the country would need monthly to fight the contagion.
“The demand we have exceeds our production capacity,” 3M Chief Executive Mike Roman told the Wall Street Journal, adding that the company doubled its mask production since January.
Trump also announced that he had received a second COVID-19 test, which came back negative. He said the new test was much quick and “pleasant” than the first one he was administered.
“I took it this morning, it took me literally a minute to take it,” he said. “It said the president tested negative for COVID-19.”
The president spent part of the press conference railing against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other Democrats for forming a new House committee with subpoena authority to investigate the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.
"We have seen Americans unite with incredible selflessness and compassion," Trump said. "I want to remind everyone here in our nation's capital, especially in Congress, that this is not the time for politics, endless partisan investigations. Here we go again. They've already done extraordinary damage to our country in recent years."