During congressional debates over the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), a relatively novel idea was the focus of proposals from the Senate and House of Representatives: “digital dollars.” Several legislative proposals introduced the idea to address the delay between passage of the CARES Act and distribution of direct stimulus payments to taxpayers, one of the pillars of the act. While the concept did not find its way into the final bill, its inclusion in proposals from both the Senate and House indicate that the viability – and specific application – of a central bank digital currency may be emerging.
In the Senate, Ranking Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the Banking for All Act (BAA) on March 24, 2020. Senator Brown touted the BAA as an avenue for rapid payment of stimulus checks to individuals. Specifically, the BAA would allow all residents and citizens of the United States, and businesses domiciled in the United States, to set up a free digital dollar wallet, called a “FedAccount”, which would be maintained by member national, state and local banks, as well as U.S. Post Offices. A FedAccount would allow a holder “receive payments from the United States pursuant to a Federal law relating to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” as well perform more general tasks such as withdrawing and receiving money, and making payments.