• Sen. Bernie Sanders is proposing that each US household receive a cash payment of $2,000 until the COVID-19 crisis is resolved.
  • The proposal comes in the wake of a proposal from Sen. Mitt Romney, who on Monday suggested a one-time payment of $1,000 to all US adults.
  • “There’s increasing agreement on sending out checks to everyone,” Mike Konczal, director of the Roosevelt Institute, told Business Insider.

Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling for the federal government to pick up the tab for all Americans’ health care costs during the COVID-19 pandemic – an emergency version of Medicaid-for-all – and for each household to receive $2,000 in cash each month until the crisis is resolved.

Sanders unveiled the proposals in a Tuesday night address, which he plans to share with Senate Democratic leaders. Sanders lost to former Vice President Joe Biden in three primaries on Tuesday night in Illinois, Florida, and Arizona. The primary in Ohio, which was also set to vote Tuesday, was called off over concerns it would contribute to the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“People are sitting out there and they’re saying, ‘My god, what am I going to do? How do I take care of my families?’ That has got to be the major, major economic priority that we address,” Sanders said on a Facebook livestream. “How do we take care of the working families in this country who are negatively impacted by this crisis?”

To that end, the senator from Vermont called for providing a “direct, emergency $2,000 cash payment to every household in America every month for the duration of the crisis.”

While providing less upfront, the proposal, part of a broader plan detailed on Sanders' campaign website, is more aggressive than a measure unveiled Monday by Sen. Mitt Romney, under which each American adult would receive a one-time payment of $1,000. Sanders' proposal is more comparable to a plan introduced by Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown, Michael Bennet, and Cory Booker, under which individuals - not households - would receive an initial payment of $2,000 and, depending on the length of the crisis, additional payments of $1,500 and $1,000.

"There's increasing agreement on sending out checks to everyone," Mike Konczal, director of the Roosevelt Institute, a liberal think tank, told Business Insider. "Sanders's plan is important because it emphasizes that this can't be a one-time thing but instead something that continues through the recession."

Direct cash payments as a means of responding to an economic downturn are not unheard of in US politics. In 2008, following the collapse of the financial sector, President George W. Bush signed economic stimulus legislation that provided individuals up to $600 in the form of a tax rebate check.

Sanders' proposal emphasizes the need to provide any such payments in a way that can serve Americans who may not have bank accounts or a means of cashing a check. Unlike the competing proposal from Democratic senators, which tapers off based on income, the Sanders plan would also provide cash to all Americans, including the wealthy.

"It is key that we get this money out and to families as soon as possible, which means we must make the payments universal with little bureaucracy," Sanders' website states. Those who do not really need the assistance "can contribute their payments to fighting the coronavirus pandemic," it adds, saying it will assist such "patriotic families" in finding organizations to help.

"Cash" grabs the headlines, but Konczal told Business Insider that the proposal from Sanders contributes to the policy discussion in far more significant ways, namely by "prioritizing a new agency to cover the payroll of affected businesses and execute a recovery policy."

Indeed, Sanders is calling for an emergency agency modeled off the Depression-era Reconstruction Finance Corporation - a new New Deal - that would take over responsibility for paying workers in industries "such s restaurants, bars, and local retail that need immediate relief." Instead of staff being laid off, their checks would keep coming, just from the US government.