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Coronavirus aid: How the government might boost your unemployment check

Brittany De Lea

As the spreading coronavirus takes a toll on the U.S. economy, lawmakers are ramping up efforts to provide aid to affected workers – fast.

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney and South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said during a stakeout on Capitol Hill Wednesday that they are both on board with a proposal to “substantially” increase unemployment insurance checks.

“Individuals who are unemployed and go to get unemployment insurance payments, don't just get the $375 but they get something much more substantial that so that we're able to keep people whole, or nearly whole, if they become unemployed,” Romney said.

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Eighteen percent of households said someone in their household had been laid off – or had hours reduced – due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll of 835 adults.

So how much more might the government contribute?

Graham said that lawmakers are considering having the federal government “make up the difference” of the amount of an individual’s unemployment check at the state level, up to 75 percent of his or her income, for a person earning $80,000.

“The unemployment system [that] exists is woefully inadequate for the circumstances that we're under,” Graham said. “It was never designed for a pandemic.”

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Meanwhile, the administration is also considering direct cash payments to American families. Romney initially proposed the idea of giving households $1,000 in immediate relief – though he and Graham disagree on parts of that proposal. Romney would like to see those payments issued in addition to increased unemployment insurance.

A senior administration official confirmed to FOX Business on Wednesday that the White House is potentially calling for $250 billion worth of money go out by April 6 – and another $250 billion by May 18. The checks would be tiered based on family size and income. That information was first reported by The Washington Post.

As previously reported by FOX Business, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said that checks could be larger than $1,000.

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FOX Business’ Blake Burman contributed to this report.

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