Will the Government Figure Out How to Get Everyone Money Pronto?

Ryan Glasspiegel
Money / Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

As industries are ravaged, schools are closed, and vast swaths of the American population scrambles in the wake of coronavirus and social isolation, it's becoming the consensus that the government is going to write everyone a check or checks to help get by. "Americans need cash now," Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday. "And I mean now — in the next two weeks."

Congress has some work to do on this, as the questions become how much money, when it comes, and how it gets delivered.

There are a lot of logistical challenges to deploying this Andrew Yang universal basic income-type stimulus. Direct deposit is the ideal option for many people, but lots of society is off the grid. Depositing a mailed check would require a smartphone (which not everyone has), or leaving the house to go to a bank (25 percent of Americans either don't have a bank account or are "underbanked"), or cashing it at money stores that charge a fee.

How do people register to get their money? How are the most vulnerable members of society, who need it most, reached? How do homeless people and/or people without identification claim their funds? What are the safeguards against fraud, or payday loan stores inserting themselves as an intermediary and taking a usurious cut? Is there a way to target workers from bars, restaurants, hotels, casinos, and other industries that are furloughed more than people who are less burdened by the circumstances?

There are thousands of questions, but it will be fascinating to see the mechanics of how the government gets people their money.