Sen. Lindsey Graham Says Government Could Underwrite ‘70 Percent’ of U.S. Payroll if Coronavirus Containment Continues

Zachary Evans

Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) on Friday warned that federal and state governments could be forced to support a large segment of the American workforce if measures designed to contain the Wuhan coronavirus remain in place.

“I talked with [Treasury Secretary Steve] Mnuchin this morning. Here’s the challenge, and we’ve just got to tell the public the truth: we’re going to be floating probably 70 percent of the nation’s payroll,” Graham told reporters on Capitol Hill. “The federal government in some form, working with the states and the private sector, but mostly the federal government is going to underwrite 70 percent of the payroll in this country if the containment policies continue to be this aggressive.”

Graham said the economic stimulus currently being hashed out by senators in conjunction with the White House will be much more expensive than originally thought.

“It’s going to be a hell of a lot more than $1 trillion,” Graham said. Other Republican and Democratic senators have privately agreed that the stimulus will exceed the $1 trillion mark, CNN reported on Friday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said the body would be ready to vote on the stimulus by Monday.

“We expect to have an agreement by the end of today,” McConnell told CNN. “The game plan remains the same. We will be voting on a final package in the Senate on Monday.”

The Wuhan coronavirus pandemic has caused large swaths of the U.S. to implement closures of schools, theaters and other public venues, with New York and California ordering nonessential workers to stay at home and residents to remain home as much as possible. Jobless claims have surged by 281,000 since March 8, the highest rise since September 2017.

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