Mitt Romney 12

Sen. Mitt Romney said Wednesday that the gargantuan $2 trillion stimulus package being considered by Congress is “very good news” as Washington races to confront the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s a good package. It’s not perfect,” said Romney during a conference call with Utah media. “There are a lot of flaws in any bill being rushed through as quickly as this has bee, but it’s a big step forward.”

The relief package contains cash payments for Americans of up to $1200 for single people and $2400 for married couples and another $500 per child, as well as a massive increase in unemployment benefits for workers. Romney says those two provisions will be the most impactful for residents of Utah.

“That’s gonna help people put some money back in their account after they bought a lot of groceries and things stocking up their households,” said Romney. “It’s going to make a difference for those people that are unemployed, too.”

Romney says he’s not sure how long it will take for stimulus checks to show up in mailboxes after the package is signed by President Donald Trump, but he hopes it will be sooner rather than later.

“I’ll give you a little history. The checks announced back in 2008 by President Bush took 12 weeks to get out. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin believes they can get the checks out in two weeks. I hope he’s right,” said Romney.

Romney did say he was uncomfortable with one of the provisions in the bill to increase unemployment insurance by $600 a week on top of their state benefits, which could create a perverse incentive for some people to get fired as it’s possible they could make more from unemployment than they were paid while employed. 

Romney is self-quarantining at his Salt Lake City home after he was exposed to the COVID-19 virus by Sen. Rand Paul, who tested positive earlier this week. Romney says although he’s been working remotely, most of the elements of the bill were negotiated before he left Washington for his self-imposed isolation.

While $2 trillion is a massive number, one wonders if it will be enough to juice the economy to avoid a recession or even another depression. Some economists have predicted without massive government intervention, unemployment could hit 30 percent. Romney, an avowed deficit hawk, said the influx of cash is needed to avoid economic disaster.

“If this goes for a longer period of time, there might be the need for additional funding to maintain employment in small and large businesses as well as to fill in the difference in the unemployment pool,” he said.

The stimulus bill also has $500 billion in loans and loan guarantees for businesses including $25 billion for airlines. Businesses that take the loans must retain 90 percent of their employee levels through September 30 to avoid massive layoffs.