WASHINGTON – The U.S. Treasury Department has ordered that President Donald Trump’s signature appear on checks being sent to tens of millions of Americans as part of the government’s effort to boost the country’s economy in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
Normally, when the U.S. government sends out routine monthly benefit checks or occasional stimulus checks in past years, they are signed by a civil servant from the agency issuing them.
The U.S. this week sent 80 million direct deposits to bank accounts of Americans for whom it had account numbers on file.
Trump’s name does not appear on the direct deposits, part of the government’s $2 trillion rescue plan for the battered U.S. economy, sending up to $1,200 payments to about 90% of adult Americans.
But the government in the coming days is starting to send paper checks to 70 million more Americans for whom it has only a home address, but not bank account information.
These checks will show the U.S. leader’s signature — “President Donald J. Trump” — on the left side of the payment.
It will be the first time a U.S. president’s signature will appear on a disbursement from the country’s tax-collecting agency, the Internal Revenue Service. White House officials told the Washington Post that Trump had suggested to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who oversees the tax agency, to allow him to formally sign the stimulus payments.
In early April, at a news briefing, Trump denied wanting to have his name on the mailed payments.
“Do I want to sign them? No,” he said. But he described the coronavirus rescue effort to send more than $292 million to American households as a “Trump administration initiative.”
The tax agency has the capability of mailing out about five million checks a week, so the process could take months to complete.
Trump, facing a re-election challenge in November against former Vice President Joe Biden, is pushing to reopen the country’s economy, at least parts of it by May 1, even as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is increasing in the U.S. and totals more than 600,000, while the death toll has topped 26,000.
Until the coronavirus ravaged the U.S., the strength of the American economy, the world’s largest, was Trump’s strongest selling point for re-election to a new four-year term in the White House.
In recent days, Trump has strongly defended his actions in combating the virus even as news accounts have shown that advisers warned him in the early weeks of the year about the coronavirus threat. Trump downplayed concerns throughout January, February and half of March before declaring a national emergency in mid-March.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, often a Trump critic, told MSNBC Tuesday night that Trump’s directive to have his signature on the stimulus checks was part of his effort to keep the focus on himself.
“It seems almost every day the president thinks this crisis revolves around him and his desires, his needs, his enemies,” Schumer said.
The stimulus payments are being sent to individual taxpayers who earn up to $99,000 annually and to couples whose joint salaries total no more than $198,000, with $500 payments for children.