CORONAVIRUS

Second stimulus check: economists push for regular payments

A group of over 150 economists has signed an open letter calling on the US government to give American households recurring stimulus checks.

Second stimulus check: economists push for regular payments
CHIP SOMODEVILLA / AFP

As Americans wait to find out whether there will be a second round of stimulus checks, a group of leading economists has published an open letter urging the United States government to hand out recurring payments to households.

Regular checks will boost US' economic recovery, letter says

"Direct cash payments are an essential tool that will boost economic security, drive consumer spending, hasten the recovery, and promote certainty at all levels of government and the economy - for as long as necessary," read Wednesday’s letter, which was signed by 156 economists including the likes of Jason Furman, an economic adviser to former US President Barack Obama.

"Regular, lasting direct stimulus payments will boost consumer spending, driving the economic recovery and shortening the recession," the letter added. "Right now, most Americans are just trying to keep their heads above water."

Almost 50m unemployment benefits claims since March

With unemployment in the US soaring as a result of the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic - it hit 14.7% in April, and now sits at 11.1% - nearly 50 million people in the States have filed first-time claims for jobless benefits since March.

As part of the CARES Act, a $2.2tn relief package signed into law in March, Americans earning $99,000 or less have been eligible for a one-off stimulus check, officially known as an Economic Impact Payment, of up to $1,200.

A second check of up to $1,200 was included in the HEROES Act, a follow-up bill passed by the House of Representatives in May, but the $3tn package has met with Republican resistance in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Trump supports second stimulus check

President Donald Trump has stated his support for a second round of one-time checks, telling Fox last Sunday: "I support actually larger numbers than the Democrats […]. I want the money getting to people to be larger”.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has hinted that a potential second stimulus check may come with a lower income eligibility limit than the CARES Act payments. Telling reporters this week that a check "could well" be part of the next relief bill, McConnell added: "I think the people who have been hit the hardest are people who make about $40,000 a year or less."

This is a figure that the Kentucky senator did not refer to by chance, says Washington Post reporter Jeff Stein. "Multiple sources say McConnell didn't just throw out $40,000 as a cut-off haphazardly - consensus within GOP is moving that direction, which would sharply limit eligibility," Stein tweeted.

Next stimulus package expected between July, August recesses

With Congress on recess until 17 July and then again from 10 August to 7 September, a fresh stimulus package potentially including a second Economic Impact Payment is expected to be pushed through in the period between those two breaks.

"I would predict in the next couple of weeks, if there's a new rescue package - and I'm pretty sure there will be - I’ll be unveiling one,” McConnell said on Monday, per CNET.

Live coverage of the coronavirus crisis

As of 15:45 ET on Thursday, there had been 3,084,690 coronavirus cases in the United States, leading to 132,934 deaths. You can follow live, America-focused coverage of the Covid-19 crisis with our dedicated US rolling feed.