Coronavirus: Trump’s name to appear on US relief cheques
President Donald Trump’s name will be printed on paper cheques being sent to millions of Americans struggling financially because of coronavirus.
It is the first time a US president’s name will appear on a federal government handout.
Treasury officials have denied claims that the decision could delay delivery of the aid.
The assistance is part of a $2 trillion financial relief package approved by the US Congress in March.
Some 16m lost their jobs in the past month alone.
More than 80 million Americans are expected to receive payments of up to $1,200 in their bank accounts on Wednesday, according to the Treasury Department
But for those who did not provide banking details, they will receive a cheque with “President Donald J. Trump” printed on the left-hand side.
“It’s absolutely unprecedented,” Nina Olson, a former senior official in the Internal Revenue Service, told the Washington Post.
“Taxes are supposed to be nonpolitical, and it’s that simple.”
Two senior IRS officials told the Washington Post the move would probably lead to a delay in issuing the first batch of cheques. The Treasury Department denied this.
Critics are accusing the president of playing politics, using the financial aid to boost his reputation in an election year.
“You are getting your money late because the President thinks it is more important that his name be on the cheque than that you are able to pay your bills on time,” tweeted Democatic Senator Brian Schatz.
And Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut, which has around 3,500 COVID-19 cases, accused Mr Trump of putting himself “first” and “America second”.
Computer code must be changed to include the president’s name, US Treasury officials were quoted as saying.
The cheques need to be printed and sent for postal delivery in a process that should begin on Thursday.
If there’s one thing Donald Trump, the real-estate and entertainment mogul, has always had a knack for, it’s self-promotion.
So it’s not at all surprising that he would take the opportunity to order his name printed on government stimulus cheques going out to millions of Americans. A month ago, after all, the US Centers for Disease sent a mailing to Americans detailed “President Trump’s coronavirus guidelines for America”.
Given the enormity of the economic devastation that has hit the US economy, however, the cash payments – which were actually the result of negotiations between the Trump administration and Congress – may end up a minimal financial salve for most Americans. The political benefits for the president could be slim, given the circumstances.
Just a few months ago, Trump was preparing a re-election campaign based on his stewardship of a booming economy. Now he’s facing a massive downturn. A cash infusion seven months before the November balloting will probably be quickly forgotten, even if it does come with the president’s name attached.
It will irk the president’s political opponents to no end, however. And for Trump and his supporters, that is always a welcome bonus.
What is the situation in the US?
The US coronavirus outbreak has quickly become one of the worst in the world.
The death toll has doubled in one week, reaching more than 25,000, and the number of infections is approaching 610,000.
New York state has been particularly badly affected, with almost 190,000 cases and more than 10,000 deaths.
But the number of people requiring hospital treatment there fell this week, giving possible signs of improvement.
On Tuesday, American broadcaster Oprah Winfrey warned African Americans to take the coronavirus outbreak seriously, saying the disease is “taking people out”. African Americans make up a disproportionate number of coronavirus deaths and hospitalisations in the US.
- Coronavirus is ‘taking us out’ warns Oprah
Meanwhile, Mr Trump, as well as state governors, are discussing when the US lockdown may end, as fears grow about the severe economic impact of the virus.
On Tuesday President Trump said that plans to reopen the country were “close to being finalised”.
He caused a furore the day before when he said that he, and not state governors, had the authority to lift lockdowns and restart the economy.
But on Tuesday, he changed his position, saying: “The governors are responsible. They have to take charge.”
Earlier on Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo accused President Trump of “spoiling for a fight”.
“We don’t have a king, we have a president,” he said.