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Kevin O'Leary on stimulus checks: Stop 'sending everybody free money'

Alexis Christoforous
·Anchor
·3 min read

President Joe Biden has proposed sending $1,400 checks to every eligible American, as part of his massive $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Shark Tank investor and Chairman of O’Shares ETF, Kevin O’Leary, told Yahoo Finance Live that’s not the best use of taxpayer money. “We're just sending everybody free money from a helicopter,” he said. “That's not a great idea.”

Instead, O’Leary said the U.S. government should only send checks to the unemployed, and pour more money into ramping up vaccine distribution.

“I don't know why we're sending checks to people that are already employed,” said O’Leary. “That makes no sense to me. The deal should be this. If you are displaced by the pandemic, we will send you a check, because you're unemployed.”

O’Leary cautions that the U.S. is in danger of putting too much stimulus into the economy and risking “horrific, horrific inflation.”

He’s also not a fan of industry bailouts, including to the beaten up airlines.

“We have too many airlines in terms of capacity because business spending will be down somewhere between 20% and 25% for years to come,” he said. “Just give unemployment checks to the employees. They're highly trained. They'll find new jobs in the digital economy. And airlines are very good at going bankrupt... They do it every 10 years. So it's just fine. Stop spending money there.”

Travelers check in at the American Airlines terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Los Angeles. From Britain's EasyJet to American and Delta in the U.S., airlines are cutting even more jobs to cope with a crushing drop in air travel caused by the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Travelers check in at the American Airlines terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Los Angeles. From Britain's EasyJet to American and Delta in the U.S., airlines are cutting even more jobs to cope with a crushing drop in air travel caused by the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

O’Leary recommends a similar approach for the struggling restaurant industry, where 4 million jobs have been lost during the pandemic.

“I'd like to take care of everybody that works in a restaurant that's unemployed. I do not want to bail out every restaurant owner. I'm sorry,” he said. “A better way to spend on restaurants would be to spend more money on the logistics of getting the vaccine out. Because I can guarantee you, when people feel safe again, they will go to restaurants. It's an industry that bounces back very, very quickly.”

O’Leary said he currently has restaurants in his portfolio of businesses that are going bankrupt amid the pandemic but that “the ones that are going to survive will be the ones that should come back because they're still relevant.”

Photo by: STRF/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 12/17/20 Restaurants in New York City continue to suffer economic hardship during the coronavirus pandemic. Freezing temperatures, a Nor'Easter and outdoor only dining have only made matters worse. Many have been unable to weather the storm and have been forced to close permanently.
Photo by: STRF/STAR MAX/IPx 2020 12/17/20 Restaurants in New York City continue to suffer economic hardship during the coronavirus pandemic. Freezing temperatures, a Nor'Easter and outdoor only dining have only made matters worse. Many have been unable to weather the storm and have been forced to close permanently.

Some states, including Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, and New York recently deemed restaurant staff “essential workers,” bumping them up the list for those eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

“When you've got tens of millions of people that have no jobs, they're the ones who we should be taking care of,” O’Leary said.”The whole country is waiting to get vaccinated — at least the ones that want the vaccine, and we can't do it. And we're sending checks to people that already have jobs in the meantime? It just seems crazy.”

Alexis Christoforous is an anchor on Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.

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