Unsanitized: Placing Consumers at the Forefront of Relief Efforts

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The American Prospect

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Though Congress has passed a bill to help the economy recover from the coronavirus crisis, many of us wonder how we will pay our rapidly mounting debts. Sending us the occasional check or eliminating a payroll tax obligation is not up to the task—especially when the need is continuous and so many have lost their jobs. Boosts to unemployment checks are necessary and vital, but this provision is being run through overburdened state unemployment systems that will inevitably slip people through the cracks. Shoring up the airlines and small businesses can prop up the employment situation, but it cannot give us what we really need while we are hanging on in the middle of the storm.

For the next stimulus package, rather than sending tens of millions of checks to consumers, Congress would do better to strike at the economic crisis by using the existing lending mechanism, right in front of us, that more than three-quarters of us already possess: credit cards. We think that Congress should pass legislation which allow banks on a monthly basis to bill the government for, say, 70 percent of the interest charges on those cards, while requiring banks to defer monthly credit card payments for all consumer cardholders for the length of the coronavirus catastrophe, perhaps as long as six months. We suggest that the benefit be capped at something like $10,000 per consumer as those charges accrue.