Asked by Fox Business if he supports “another round of direct payments for individuals” — a reference to the $1,200 stimulus payments — the president said: “I do. I support it. But it has to be done properly. And I support actually larger numbers than the Democrats. But it’s got to be done properly.”
Republicans have so far rejected Democratic lawmakers’ push to send out $2,000 per person a month to Americans during the pandemic.
In the next sentence, Trump appeared to highlight conservative concerns over the impact of higher unemployment insurance payments on discouraging Americans to return to the labor market. That made it unclear if the president was expressing support for another round of direct stimulus payments, or some other form of federal help for individual taxpayers.
A White House spokesman declined to clarify what the president meant on Wednesday.
“We had something where they wanted where it gave you a disincentive to work last time. And it was still money going to people and helping people, so I was all for that. But we want to create a very great incentive to work. So we’re working on that, and I’m sure we’ll all come together,” the president said, according to a transcript provided by Fox Business.
The Washington Post reported last week that Trump has told aides that he is generally supportive of another round of checks, but the administration had not officially endorsed the policy. White House officials have said they do not have a position yet on the matter.
Trump previously told congressional lawmakers he opposes extending the $600-per-week increase to unemployment benefits approved by Congress in March. Post polling has found close to 60 percent of Americans believe the increase should be extended, and economists fear cutting the benefit would hurt the economic recovery.
Asked by Fox Business to clarify if he was talking about the direct payments or the expanded unemployment benefits, the president said: “I want the money getting to people to be larger so they can spend it. I want the money to get there quickly and in a non-complicated fashion. And they wanted to make it too complicated. Also, it was an incentive not to go to work. You’d make more money if you don’t go to work. That’s not what the country is all about.”
Trump added: “And people didn’t want that. They wanted to go to work. But it didn’t make sense because they make more money if they didn’t. And we had some of that. And so we don’t want to have that. We want to have people get out. And we want we want to create a tremendous incentive for people to want to go back to work.”
The president also created confusion when asked if he supports the minimum-wage increases approved recently by several states across the country. Asked about the issue, Trump said: “I’m going to have a statement on minimum wage. I feel differently than a lot of people on minimum wage — some people in my own party.”
Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, has called the federal minimum wage a “terrible idea.”
Critics say the president needs to be clearer about which economic policy measures are supported by his administration as Congress begins to put together its next stimulus package.
“There are hundreds of options for doing more fiscal support, and the president needs to weigh in on what his biggest priorities are,” said Ernie Tedeschi, a former economist at the Treasury Department under the Obama administration. “It’s ambiguous what program the president is referring to here.”