By WILL STEAKIN, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Americans receiving stimulus checks amid the coronavirus pandemic have started getting signed letters by President Donald Trump in the mail.
The letter sent to millions of Americans, which prominently features a massive signature by the president that stands a full 2.25 inches long and about an inch high, looks to explain the reasoning for the direct payments while touting the government response to the crisis.
While the purpose of the letter, according to the Internal Revenue Service website, is to confirm receipt of a stimulus payment and, most important, to provide guidance about what to do if someone is due a payment and have not received one, it mostly appears to highlight the government’s response to the virus while providing a website and phone number at the bottom without any further instructions.
“Your Economic Impact Payment Has Arrived,” reads large bold text at the top of the letter, just below “The White House” letterhead.
The one-page letter, sent separately from mailed checks and which ABC News has obtained, states that the country is “experiencing an unprecedented public health and economic challenge as a result of the global coronavirus pandemic.”
The letter is sent in an envelope marked by the IRS as part of the Treasury Department, with postage and fees paid for by the IRS and casts the response to the virus as a “war” and describes it as an “invisible enemy,” a term the president has often used in White House press briefings.
“We are fully committed to ensuring that you and your family have the support you need to get through this time,” the letter reassures Americans.
The president also details the passing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) in the letter, pointing out that he “proudly signed into law.”
“I want to thank the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate for working so quickly with my Administration to fast-track this $2.2 trillion in much-needed economic relief to the American people,” Trump goes on to write.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment.
At a White House coronavirus press briefing on Friday, the president appeared to mention the letters, stating, “The CARES act requires that the federal government send out a notice of what benefits Americans are receiving to fulfill the requirement.”
“It will include the amount, their economic impact payment, how it will arrive, direct deposit, check, or prepaid debit card as well as a message to the nation letting each American know that we are getting through this challenge together as one American family,” Trump said.
The letters follow an unprecedented move by the Trump administration to ensure that the president’s name appeared on the paper stimulus checks mailed to Americans starting in mid-April.
Experts believe it’s the first time a president’s name will appear on a payment from the IRS, an agency that often looks to maintain independence from partisan politics.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last weekend that it was his idea to have the president’s name appear on the checks in the memo section.
“We did put the president’s name on the check,” Mnuchin said on CNN’s State of the Union. “That was my idea. He is the president, and I think it’s a terrific symbol to the American public.”
Some experts say the signed letters mailed to Americans are part of a larger effort by the president to use his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic to his political advantage six-months out from Election day.
“It’s clearly connected to his reelection effort,” historian at Princeton University Julian E. Zelizer told ABC News. “He doesn’t want to do what President Obama did, failing to promote his role in a recovery program and then failing to gain political credit.”
“[President Franklin D. Roosevelt] made sure that voters knew public works programs were part of the New Deal. You can see the placards today. But in Trumpian fashion he goes overboard. He does it in such a fashion that this becomes the focus rather than the needs of Americans. Unlike the New Deal, the current program–$1200 checks and more unemployment insurance–doesn’t come anywhere close to what is needed to stabilize the economy,” Zelizer said.
“So it’s a bit like the Trump steaks–lots of crass advertising and the product isn’t very satisfactory,” he added.
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