Portman Hesitates on Support for Cash Influx

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said Tuesday he isn’t fully on board yet with proposals to provide cash payments to U.S. citizens to help stimulate the economy during the coronavirus outbreak.

Several proposals are being discussed as lawmakers debate the best way to boost the economy as cities and states limit group gatherings, order quarantines and shut down or curtail businesses ranging from restaurants to theaters. The cash payments proposal is “one of the options on the table,” Portman told Ohio reporters during a conference call around noon.

The White House proposed a roughly $850 billion stimulus package Tuesday that would include direct payments to Americans, preferably within the next two weeks.

Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee, advocated giving every adult American $1,000 to help families and workers meet their obligations and increase spending.

Last week, U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, and Ro Khanna, D-17 Calif., called for checks of $1,000 to $6,00 for every American who earned less than $65,000 last year.

Many Americans have followed recommendations of public health officials to stay home to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, Ryan said.

“Unfortunately, that means many are now missing paychecks or losing their jobs. Our country is already hurting under these unprecedented times and we should take swift, broad-sweeping action to keep working-class Americans on stable footing,” he continued. “I’m heartened to hear that this administration has joined Congressman Khanna and me to move forward with putting cash in the pockets of the American people. Time is of the essence, so let’s work together and get Americans the help they need.”

Portman expressed a couple of concerns he had with the cash payment idea. First, he questioned how much time it might take. The last time the government attempted such a plan, it took about three months to get the money out the door. “That’s too long. This is why we’re looking at other things as well to get help to people more rapidly,” such as utilizing the existing unemployment compensation system, he said

Second, he questioned the impact of the one-time payment with the consumer economy, which is part of the issue federal officials are trying to address.

“There’s a lot to think about but I think it should be on the table,” he acknowledged. “It’s something we ought to look at.”

Portman told reporters the Senate should not leave town until it passes a pair of stimulus packages: the new package being proposed by the White House and one based on a plan passed over the weekend by the House of Representatives, though he would like to see modifications to that plan.

The House package “has a lot of good things” such as increased funding for nutritional assistance programs and enhanced unemployment benefits, and he supports it overall. He would like to see the paid leave program expanded to cover businesses with more than 500 employees. “We need to make sure that we’re not leaving people out,” he said.

Portman also said he has spoken with stakeholders around Ohio, including business leaders and representatives of the restaurant and lodging industries, about what changes they would like to see in the House package. He has provided that input to the U.S. Treasury Department, as well as other members of the Ohio congressional delegations, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.

In addition, he would like to see issues such as business liquidity, aid to the airlines and other issues addressed in the potential third stimulus package.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.