President Donald Trump’s administration has shifted from its call for a payroll tax holiday and now favors direct payments to Americans to blunt the economic toll of the novel coronavirus, according to national news reports, including checks that may average $1,000 being sent on April 6 and May 18.

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., says that’s not enough. He wants to provide $2,000 per person this quarter and, if the economy is still ravaged, another $1,500 next quarter and another $1,000 for each quarter beyond that if the unemployment rate remains much higher than pre-virus levels.

“What we’re seeing now in this economy is a significantly bigger hit coming towards our American families,” Booker said. “This makes sure that we create a floor for those families, to get them through what could be an economic storm that could last for months or even well into next year.”

The payments would be reduced and eventually phase out for people with higher incomes. Specific thresholds are being negotiated. Booker said that if the recession lasts through late in the year, under the plan a family of four could receive $18,000.

“This is proactive. It is significant. But we know from our analyses is that it would have a massive multiplier effect in our economy,” Booker said. “In other words, by giving resources to people who have immediate spending needs, they would be able to put that money into the economy.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., said he supports the proposal.

Menendez said the third virus-related response bill being negotiated now could exceed $1 trillion – and should, given that the bills passed in response to the 2008 financial crisis and Great Recession included $700 billion for the Troubled Asset Relief Program and $787 billion for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus package.

“And that moment, I would say was in consequence, even though it was big at the time, less consequential than this one,” Menendez said. “This one’s big.”

Gov. Phil Murphy, who held a conference call with New Jersey’s congressional delegation Wednesday, said the stimulus plan should be $3 billion to $4 billion.

Menendez said the bill being negotiated now needs to have state stabilization funds, flexible block grants and forgivable loans like after Superstorm Sandy. He said it must have funds to help NJ Transit, small business lending, municipalities, critical care beds and more.

“New Jersey’s already spending billions on this crisis and we need to expedite federal reimbursements for the sake of the state’s budget and needs,” Menendez said.

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In a conference call with reporters, Booker and Menendez stressed the need for residents to follow social distancing guidelines.

“I hope every New Jerseyan takes this seriously,” Menendez said. “I know there are some people who I’ve talked to, some who’ve called me, and they question the seriousness of this. And I’ve told them very clearly: Look, this is serious. And you will either be part of the solution or you’ll be one of the statistics.”

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at

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