Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the Trump administration is looking at a coronavirus relief proposal to give direct cash payments to Americans reeling from job or potential income loss.
“We are looking at sending checks to Americans immediately,” Mnuchin told reporters. “Americans need cash now and the president wants to get cash now. And I mean now, in the next two weeks.”
Mnuchin, a former film industry financier, declined to specify the amount, although figures like Mitt Romney have proposed $1,000 payments. He is meeting with Senate Republicans on Tuesday to discuss a massive stimulus package. It reportedly will be an $850 billion outlay that includes $50 billion to help the airline industry.
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Another proposal, for a payroll tax holiday, appeared to be on hold for now.
But industry workers are urging Congress to ensure that a relief package takes into account the specialized nature of showbiz employment.
“The unique nature of the entertainment industry means that many of the creative professionals may not work every day, or even every month,” the petition states. “Existing paid leave programs are by and large not applicable to this workforce. Entertainment workers depend on the income from each project they book to ensure they can support themselves and can qualify to participate in our collectively bargained health plans. Rules designed specifically for the traditional single employer relationship, or even for multi-employer work in the construction industry are likely to exclude our members, and entertainment freelancers in general.”
The Motion Picture Association, which represents major studios, said that it is “coordinating with industry partners and government officials to limit the impact.” According to the MPA, the industry supports 2.5 million jobs. But White House officials, including Mnuchin and Vice President Mike Pence, have so far only publicly identified airlines, travel and tourism as the most urgent industries in need of a bailout.