On the same day the federal government announced more than 6.6 million Americans filed unemployment claims, President Donald Trump said a program to help businesses continue to pay workers launches Friday.
The $500 billion program, part of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package passed by Congress and signed by Trump, provides guaranteed loans to small businesses forced to temporarily shutter or reduce operations because of government restrictions to help slow the spread of the disease.
"The Paycheck Protection Program launches tomorrow," Trump said Thursday at the White House's daily press briefing. "Loans are 100 percent forgivable as long as businesses continue to pay their workers."
More than 6.6 million Americans filed unemployment claims last week as more businesses were forced to lay off and furlough workers because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 6.6 million claims for the week that ended March 28 is a 99.4 percent increase over the prior week, when 3.28 million unemployment claims were filed.
Trump also said the federal government will continue to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin also said Thursday that, under the same federal coronavirus package, Americans who receive federal tax returns via direct deposit through their bank accounts, will start receiving stimulus checks within two weeks.
The stimulus package includes $250 billion in direct payments to Americans depending on their income. The legislation will provide payments of $1,200 to each adult and $500 to each child younger than 17, depending on a household's 2019 income. A married couple with children could receive up to $3,400.
The payments start to phase out for individuals with an income of $75,000 or more, or an income of $150,000 for couples filing jointly. Individuals making more than $99,000 or couples earning more than $198,000 are not eligible.
The same stimulus package enhances unemployment benefits and will send an extra $600 a week for up to four months, in addition to state unemployment benefits, to those who lost their jobs because of business restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.
Self-employed individuals, including freelancers and gig workers such as Uber drivers, will be eligible.