Martha McSally wants to pay people to go on vacation as virus spikes in her state

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The GOP senator's proposal incentivizes travel even as health experts are cautioning against it.

Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) unveiled a proposal Monday that would give a tax credit to families to go on vacation even as coronavirus cases increase in several areas of the country.

McSally’s proposal would provide each adult a $4,000 tax credit, plus $500 per child, to be used for a vacation, meaning a family of five would receive $9,500, according to a press release from McSally’s office. The credit could only be used for vacations in the United States; would only apply to vacations at least 50 miles from a person’s primary residence; and would cover travel lodging, entertainment, and other expenses.

McSally said that the tourism industry has been hurt by the pandemic and its “revival is critical to our economic recovery.”

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Bloomberg reporter Steven Dennis noted Monday that if 100 million Americans took advantage of the proposal, it would cost the federal government $400 billion. The legislation contains no offsets, meaning the total cost would be added to the deficit.

The bill, called the American TRIP Act, includes provisions for wealthy families visiting a vacation home. The benefit would apply to travel expenses to and from the home, but not to its mortgage or other expenses.

The nature of the credit would mean individuals and families who do not earn enough to pay federal taxes would receive no benefit at all.

In 2018, more than 76 million Americans did not earn enough to pay federal taxes.

While McSally’s bill incentivizes travel, health experts have cautioned that doing so during a pandemic could be dangerous.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that “travel increases your chances of getting infected and spreading COVID-19,” and that “staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick.”

Some activities, such as going to the beach, have less risk so long as families stay together and at least six feet apart from others at all times, experts told the Washington Post.

“I’ve seen photos of incredibly crowded beaches where there’s no room to spread apart from other people,” Marybeth Sexton, assistant professor at Emory University’s School of Medicine, told the Post. “That I would not do.”

On Tuesday morning, there were more than 2,322,100 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the New York Times, and at least 120,345 people have died.

The number of coronavirus cases in Arizona specifically has spiked in recent weeks, as it reopens against expert advice.

According to the state Department of Health Services, the number of people visiting hospitals with suspected cases of COVID-19 had risen in the past two weeks, and thousands of new confirmed cases are emerging each day.

"Looking at the last two weeks of data, there is a trend. And the trend is headed in the wrong direction, and the actions we’re going to take are intended to change that direction and reverse this trend,” said Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican.

McSally announced the American TRIP Act about three months after voting against additional unemployment to Americans hit by the pandemic.

On March 25, she was one of 48 senators who voted for an amendment to the CARES Act, a coronavirus relief bill, which would have reduced an additional $600 in unemployment benefits.

Senators opposed the additional benefits out of fear it would discourage people from going back to work.

At the time, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who also voted against more generous benefits, argued that the assistance was “literally incentivizing taking people out of the workforce at a time when we need critical infrastructure supply for the workers."

Since the crisis began, more than 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment.

The amendment failed, though McSally later bragged about the benefits she opposed.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.