Public debate continues over aid similar to the $1,400 U.S. Rescue Plan, but the president is focused on two larger economic projects.
The distribution of a fourth stimulus check, including monthly payments of up to $2,000 per person, has been in the public imagination for nearly two months, but neither Congress nor the White House is pushing for extra economic assistance similar to that approved under the American Rescue Plan (ARP).
The narrative that there should be new aid is being pushed because more than 80 Democratic members of Congress sent letters to President Joe Biden to support extra help for Americans, but the president has ignored the requests and only spokeswoman Jen Psaki said last April that it would be up to Congress, but warned that such payments “are not free”.
1. Why is the debate still going on?
On May 17, a group of site representatives sent a new letter to President Biden asking him to extend unemployment insurance, which ends in September, and to support two additional stimulus checks.
The missive was promoted by Rep. Jimmy Gomez (Calif.) and signed by six other members of the House Ways and Means Committee, but without the endorsement of House Chairman Richard Neal (Mass.) or any other ranking member of the House.
Congressional staffers have told this newspaper that there is no concrete plan to push for a new stimulus check, although they acknowledge that the issue is being approached as “a rumor.”
Adding to that intention is that the Change.org petition for new economic aid has totaled 2.6 million signatures, although it was started before the PRA was passed by Denver restaurant owner Stephanie Bonin, who highlights the difficulties her business and many others have faced as a result of business closures.
In May, the White House distributed the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RFF), a $28.6 billion program for restaurants, bars, food trucks and other establishments, such as Bonin’s.
2. The Arguments
The congressmen’s letters to Biden cite several economic reports on how additional help to families can improve living conditions and reboot the market, but the Tax Policy Center’s analysis, “How Additional Cash Payments Would Reduce Poverty,” stands out, indicating that the two additional stimulus checks would not go to everyone, but to those with low incomes, which would help lift some 28 million people out of poverty.
“If Congress wanted to further reduce poverty or provide additional resources more broadly, the additional payments could accomplish that,” say authors Elaine Maag and Kevin Werner.
They add that the additional $1,400 payments would have other eligibility levels, plus fewer people would receive it by phasing out who would qualify, considering their income.
“We modeled two options for additional $1,400 payments. One would begin phasing out at lower income levels, which we call the faster phase-out payment. This payment would provide targeted relief to people with slightly lower incomes and would include all people, rather than just citizens,” they note. “The other payment option we modeled would replicate the ARP payment thresholds and limit eligibility to Citizens.”
The Latino community would benefit the most, as their poverty rate would drop from 13.3 percent to 9 percent, but a fifth payment would plummet that figure to 6.3 percent.
3. The President’s Plan
The Biden Administration has recognized the need to reduce poverty, especially in the Black and Latino communities, but has no intention of a fourth stimulus check as it focuses on a multi-year, nearly $4 trillion bill divided into two parts, the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan.
Congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Senate Majority Leader, are discussing how to pass those proposals in a bipartisan fashion, as the President wants, but Republicans are resisting raising the corporate tax and the rate for those earning more than $400,000 annually.
Biden’s infrastructure proposal focuses on creating high-paying, unionized jobs, while improving roads, airports, bridges, water distribution systems and internet facilities.
The plan for families includes several direct supports, the Child Tax Credit being the most important, as it would send 88 percent of U.S. children up to $3,600, but it also integrates supports for parents with very low incomes despite having more than one job, as well as child care assistance.
In addition to these two priorities, there is pressure to approve an immigration reform, which would be included in the economic package if it is approved under the Reconciliation rule, according to Representative Raúl Ruiz (California).