Trump Wants to Use $300B in COVID-19 Relief Funds for Stimulus Checks

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President Trump has been asking Congress if he could redirect money from coronavirus relief funds and use it to send Americans stimulus check funds, according to the New York Post.

Trump raised the idea at a White House briefing, where he riffed on solutions to the stalemate between Congressional and White House negotiators.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin came to an agreement regarding temporarily funding the government to avoid a government shutdown on September 30; however, the inclusion of Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on negotiations over a stimulus package have been far less productive.

Even Trump’s Idea of Redirecting Coronavirus Relief Funds Would Require Congressional Approval

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According to the New York Post, Trump is likely describing using unused business loan money to reallocate towards Americans in the form of stimulus check payments.

Trump made his comments about reallocation at a White House briefing, where he accused Democrats of holding up the process on passing a stimulus check bill by making unreasonable asks, such as wanting inmate releases as part of a stimulus package:

“Democrats are insisting on a massive taxpayer bailout of badly run blue states,” Trump said “… Stimulus checks for illegal aliens and the mass release of inmates from jail. They want that as part of their stimulus package, can you believe it?” Trump also chastised democrats during the press conference, saying “We have $300 billion ready to go, all Congress has to do is say, ‘use it.’”

Trump continued, saying that it would be “appropriate” for Congress to allow him to use the funds:

It’s time for the Democrats to start working across the aisle and put the American people first. Now, we have $300 billion in an account that we didn’t use and I would be willing to release it, subject to Congress, release that money and send it to the American people. It would be a very appropriate thing to release that to the American people and all we need is the sign-off.

Pelosi has not mentioned inmate releases as part of the stalemate on a stimulus package, and she has instead said that it is related to funding for state and local governments to do more testing and provide personal protective equipment, schools to implement infection control procedures, food and rent assistance for families and funding post offices enough so medication and absentee ballots can be mailed on time.

When referring to a proposal suggested by Meadows, Pelosi told The Hill, “He didn’t say anything about schools. He didn’t say anything about crushing the virus. He didn’t say anything about people who are being evicted. He didn’t say anything about food insecurity among millions of America’s children. He didn’t say anything about state and local [governments].” Pelosi said of Mark Meadows’ offer.

On state funding, Pelosi wrote a letter to Republicans, in which The Hill reported that she said:

As children return to schools, I have great concern over the Republicans’ refusal to acknowledge the funding levels that experts and scientists tell us are needed for safe school reopening. They are also rejecting the funding needed for 14 million hungry children in America and rejecting funding for children’s families for rental assistance when millions are at risk of eviction and homelessness. Their contempt for state, local, tribal and territorial governments endangers health care workers, first responders and other frontline workers, in addition to teachers.

Regardless of Trump’s wants, any plan to reallocate the funds would still require Congressional approval. The New York Post reported that Pelosi has yet to comment on Trump’s request.

Trump Has Historically Relied on Unorthodox Spending Methods

In 2019, Trump famously declared a National Emergency and reallocated money from the military ($600 million from the Treasury drug forfeiture fund, $2.5 billion from the Department of Defense and Pentagon and $3.6 million from military construction plans, NPR reported) to help fund his border wall.

Trump also recently used parts of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act to authorize the Federal Emgermcy Management Agency (FEMA) to hand out unemployment supplements under the Lost Wages Assistance program.

In the meantime, he has continued to blame Democrats for why nothing has been passed. “They want to do things that make it impossible for any economy to grow,” Trump said of Democrats during his press conference.

Trump’s outspoken desire to distribute more direct payments to Americans was backed up by what Vice President Mike Pence, who described Trump as eager to send out direct payments because of how much they “helped people” last time.

“Nobody wants to give direct payments to American families more than President Donald Trump … It helped people through this tough time,” Pence recently said in an interview with CNBC.

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