Last Friday, President-elect Joe Biden reiterated his support for a third round of stimulus checks after he assumes office January 20, telling reporters he would prepare to introduce the legislation as soon as this week.
“We need more direct relief flowing to families and small businesses, including finishing the job and getting people $2,000 in relief,” Biden remarked. “Six hundred dollars is simply not enough when you have to choose between paying rent or putting food on the table and keeping the lights on.”
However, one Democratic Senator is less than enthusiastic about the proposal, arguing that widespread vaccination should be the government’s first move.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WVA) told reporters that if more checks are issued, they should be sent to those impacted the most by the pandemic.
“If they can direct money and they say, ‘This will help stimulate the economy,’ hell yeah I’m for it,” Manchin said. “But basically right now, you better get them vaccinated.”
Since the income threshold for the $2,000 payments is significantly higher than for the $600, a four-person household could earn up to $310,000 annually before being ineligible for the combined $8,000, data from the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget found. A five-person family could earn up to $430,000 and still qualify.
Manchin’s approval is vital for the now-Democratic Senate to reach the 51 votes needed to pass a measure and avoid a filibuster. If Manchin rejects the bill, the next Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer (D-NY), will need to secure at least 11 Republican votes.
This issue might be less problematic than anticipated, as multiple Republicans backed the $2,000 stimulus checks following President Trump’s demand for them. However, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell prevented the measure from being voted on in December.
Democrats’ recent wins in the Georgia Senate elections have renewed hopes for a third round of checks. Shortly after the results were determined, Schumer said that getting struggling Americans more relief is “one of the first things that I want to do.”
There is a possibility that Schumer could get the necessary votes from GOP senators headed by Josh Hawley (R-MO), who has also been a vocal supporter for a larger payout.
Manchin was one of several lawmakers who introduced a $908 billion bipartisan bill that laid the groundwork for the final relief package. The bipartisan coalition initially left out more direct payments to Americans and did not add them until Republicans doubled down on their rejection of funding for state and local governments.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has until January 15 to issue direct deposits, physical checks, and prepaid debit cards to millions of Americans. If lawmakers approve Biden’s plan, taxpayers could possibly see an extra $1,400, plus another $1,400 for each qualifying dependent.
Prior to the Georgia races, Biden and Democratic Senate runners Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock campaigned heavily for more financial lifelines, with Biden pledging “that money would go out the door immediately” to Americans if they flipped the Senate.
In addition to the $2,000 stimulus checks, Biden addressed the need to fund ongoing vaccine research and distribution, small businesses, and schools. He also referred to the December unemployment report, which revealed a 140,000 decline in new hires (the first decrease since last April) and a slowing economic recovery, to back his reasoning for more federal relief.
“I’ve said before, the bipartisan COVID relief package passed in December is a very important step, but just a down payment,” Biden stated. “Next week, I’ll be here with you all laying out the groundwork for the next COVID economic relief package that meets the critical moment.”
The $900 billion COVID-19 measure that President Trump signed on December 31 contains funding for the $600 direct payments, renews two key unemployment programs, and provides additional funds for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Additionally, the legislation earmarks $25 billion for renter assistance, a renewal of the federal eviction ban, $13 billion for food programs, $7 billion to improve broadband infrastructure, and funding for schools and vaccines.
Biden is scheduled to reveal his complete relief package this Thursday, noting that the price tag will be “in the trillions of dollars” instead of a narrow stopgap measure containing only stimulus payments.
“We’re going to be proposing an entire package,” Biden said. “The price tag will be high.”
- Salant, Jonathan D. “Second Stimulus Check Update: Biden Calls for $2,000 Payments but This Democrat May Make It Difficult.” Nj, 8 Jan. 2021, www.nj.com/coronavirus/2021/01/second-stimulus-check-update-biden-calls-for-2000-payments-but-this-democrat-may-make-it-difficult.html.
- Tsekova, Denitsa. “Stimulus Payments of $600 ‘Simply Not Enough,’ President-Elect Biden Says.” Yahoo!, Yahoo!, 8 Jan. 2021, money.yahoo.com/stimulus-payments-biden-202519624.html.