Stimulus check and US news summary: 21 January 2021

AS English

COMMENT
$1,400 third stimulus check live updates: Biden plan, when could it arrive

Stimulus checks and US news live: latest updates

Headlines

- Biden signs executive order on the coronavirus pandemic and economy

- Republican Senators Collins and Romney question the need for additional stimulus spending

- Dr Fauci promises science-led approach in Biden administration's coronavirus response

- Trump pardons Steve Bannon and another 142 people in final hours in office (full story)

- Stimulus check of up to $1,400 included in President-elect Joe Biden's $1.9tn American Rescue Plan

Biden set to sign raft of executive orders immediately after taking office

- New president's executive actions will include rejoining Paris climate accord and reversing Muslim travel ban

- Top GOP Senator Mitch McConnell places blame for 6 January insurrection at Trump's door

- US covid cases/deaths: >24.4 million / >406,000 (live updates)

Related articles:

Stimulus for vaccinated

One Republican Congressman says instead of sending stimulus checks to every qualifying American, direct payments should go to people who receive the coronavirus vaccine.

“I hope the administration will look at that option because we actually buy something with our $1,400 — and that’s herd immunity,” said Rep. Steve Stivers (R., Ohio) in an interview with Yahoo Finance Live.

“It should be debt for the right things,” said Stivers. “The quickest thing we need to do if we really want to help the American people, is get this economy turned back on — get people back to work, get kids back in school, get ourselves some herd immunity, get the vaccine distributed as quick as we can and get the uptake rate up. That's why I'd be willing to accept a $1,400 stimulus check if people are willing to take the vaccine.

IRS chief confident of third stimulus check distribution 

For all the political wrangling that has taken place to secure each round of stimulus check payments, far less has been paid to the mammoth administrative task that the IRS faces to get the money to the people as quickly as possible. 

In a talk with Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Tax Policy Center, Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Charles Rettig said: “The IRS stands ready to serve and assist the American people." He added that the IRS could handle distribution of a proposed third round of stimulus check payments alongside dealing with a busy tax season.

Since the pandemic’s start, the IRS has already overseen one tax filing season and has nearly distributed two rounds of direct payments, each sending money to over 160 million Americans. 

What to do if you receive an EIP card instead of a stimulus check

The second round of covid-19 relief payments – a $600 stimulus check as part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, were sent out between 29 December and 15 January. Many of those payments, particularly in the final week, were issued as an EIP 2 debit card, which was mailed out to individuals’ home addressed by post.

The EIP card should be easy to use and allows you to spend the same $600 amount in a variety of shops and online stores. Here's everything you need to know about using it. 

Republican Senators voice opposition to new stimulus bill

Senator Susan Collins of Maine is reticent to pass the proposed American Rescue Package relief bill that the Biden administration is expected to table in the coming days. The new package would include a round of $1,400 stimulus checks, financial support for small businesses and a boost to unemployment benefits to see provision extended through September. 

Collins joins fellow GOP Senator Mitt Romney in publically opposing the package. The Democrats have a slender advantage in the Senate but the Republicans could still frustrate proceedings by using the filibuster to delay the bill being passed. The future of the filibuster is currently a subject of much debate, but it remains in use for now. 

 

“A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can't be any more desperate or any more clear, and now arise political extremism, White supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.”

President Joe Biden, White House Press Conference

When will the new unemployment benefits arrive?

Throughout the election campaign President Joe Biden promised to focus his early days in office on tackling the coronavirus pandemic. Last week he announced his proposal for the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion package which included a round of $1,400 stimulus checks for eligible Americans. 

But with the United States’ job market continuing to worsen it is the unemployment benefits that will be most valuable to millions who have lost their jobs. At the start of the New Year the national unemployment rate was 6.7% and further financial relief is clearly needed.

New stimulus bill will bring federal spending to $5trn

Last week President Joe Biden announced the American Rescue Plan, a financial relief package designed to give the covid-hit economy a boost. The $1.9trn bill, still yet to be passed but expected to be tabled in the coming days or weeks, includes a round of $1,400 stimulus checks

The Tax Foundation have totalled up the cost of the various economic stimulus measures introduced by the federal government. They found that in less than 12 months, the US government will have soon spent over $5 trillion on pandemic relief. 

Is student loan forgiveness included in the third stimulus relief bill?

Following his inauguration ceremony, new US president Joe Biden was quickly back at work, and millions of students, past and present, are keen to know his plans. There are around 42 million Americans with federal student loan debt and payment forbearance was first included in the CARES Act signed in law last March. 

Biden has promised that his American Rescue Plan will focus on those worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, but with so many in need of urgent assistance, who will get the support?

Stimulus check delay gets the Bernie meme treatment

Sen. Bernie Sander's iconic inauguration pose has been reappropriated countless times on Twitter since it was first shared yesterday, but this could be the most fitting yet. The progressive Senator looked pretty miserable at points on Wednesday, although that's pretty understandable given the chilly conditions.

Sanders has previously spoken out about the lack of direct support for Americans, and had previously called for an additional round of $2,000 payments to be made. As it stands, BIden's new covid relief bill will see $1,400 stimulus checks distributed. 

Now that Biden is President, when could new stimulus checks go out?

President Biden has presented a $1.9 trillion proposal to rescue the US from the covid-19 economic induced crisis, including a third round of direct payments to eligible Americans. But the American Rescue Plan (ARP) is wide ranging with portions drawing opposition from the Republicans and even from one Democratic senator.

The package would see an additional round of $1,400 stimulus checks (to 'top-up' the recent $600 payments to a nice, round $2,000) sent to each eligible American. 

Biden's federal mask manadate comes into effect

In his first few hours in the White House President Joe Biden signed a raft of executive orders, many of which were aimed at adressing the previous administration's perceived failings. Chief among which is the new federal mask mandate, which will see mask-wearing become compulsory in federal spaces, such as federal buildings and inter-state travel. 

Speaking from the White House shortly after signing the executive order, Biden said that studies into mask-wearing that that "from now until April, we can save more than 50,000 lives". 

McConnell to seek delay for Trump impeachment trial

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, currently the highest-ranking elected Republican, has reported told Senators that he will ask for Donald Trump’s impeachment trial to be delayed until early February. This would not only allow Trump’s legal team time to prepare a defense, but would also let Biden get his cabinet picks confirmed by the Senate.

With Trump having now left office the matter of his removal is no longer relevant, but there does appear to be an appetite on both sides of the aisle to hold him accountable for the Capitol Hill riots of two weeks ago.

McConnell has told others in the party that he does believe Trump committed impeachment offences. Likewise Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told reporters earlier today: “I don’t think it’s very unifying to say ‘Let’s just forget it and move on.'"

New administration promises transparency

Dr Anthony Fauci continues to throw shade on the previous adminsitration, telling reporters of the differences that he has noticed between Biden and Trump already. Whereas Fauci was often criticised by Trump for offering too honest an assessment of the seriousness of the virus, Biden has promised to work with him. 

We’re going to be completely transparent, open and honest,” said Dr. Fauci in the press conference, and he went on to hint that is a significant departure from his experience under Trump. "The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know, what the evidence and science is, and know that’s it — let the science speak, it is somewhat of a liberating feeling,"

Fauci gives White House press conference

Dr Anthony Fauci is currently giving his first public press conference as Chief Medical Advisor to President Biden, a position he was offered before the new President had even taken office. Fauci addresses some concerns about the efficacy of vaccines against a mutated strain of the coronavirus, and emphasises the need for a swift and effective roll-out process. 

Biden is sticking to his campaign target of administering 100 million doses of coronavirus vaccines within the first 100 days. To help the nationwide effort his Coronavirus Task Force have replaced the Trump administration's vaccine policy wih one of their own. 

Biden promises a more science-based covid-19 response

During his election campaign Biden made clear that coronavirus would be the main focus for his early days in office and in a press conference from the White House he promised to listen to the science when deciding policy. In a not-too-subtle reference to his predecessor, President Biden said he would allow Dr Anthony Fauci and his team to "work free from political influence and will make decisions based on science and healthcare alone, not what the political consequences are".

Fauci was named Chief Medical Advisor to the President in the new administration and Biden will put his faith in the experiences professional to lead the covid response. Above all, Biden pledged to "always be transparent with you, about the good news and the bad". 

Trump

Trump resort revenue sank as pandemic spread -financial disclosure

Some of former President Donald Trump's most high profile hospitality assets took a revenue hit last year as Covid-19 lockdowns hurt business, according to a financial disclosure filed on Wednesday, his final day in office. For example, the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, brought in $15.1 million in revenue in 2020 and the first three weeks of 2021, according to Trump's disclosure. That is down 62.7% from 2019, according to his 2019 disclosure.

The circumstances were similar at Trump property in Las Vegas, which saw revenues decline 60.5% to $9.2 million and at his Florida golf course, Trump National Doral, revenue down 42.7% to $44.2 million. A rare bright spot was Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he is expected to spend most of his time post presidency. Revenue at that property, which Trump frequently used to host political allies and foreign dignitaries, climbed 13% year-on-year to reach $24.2 million.

The regular financial disclosures Trump was required to file as president offer one of the fullest glimpses into the billionaire businessman's finances, as Trump steadfastly refused to release his tax returns, despite it being common practice for prior presidents. His final disclosure spanned 79 pages and detailed everything from his varied property holdings to how much he received in pension payments as a member of the Screen Actors Guild. It also included a number of gifts Trump received as president, including an Ultimate Fight Championship belt, valued at $650, from Colby Covington, a Trump-friendly fighter. It also details a number of sizeable liabilities owed by Trump's businesses, including five separate lines of credit worth at least $50 million apiece. Most of the debt disclosed by Trump is due to mature within the next four years.

Pelosi

US House aims for early February Covid-19 relief bill vote

The US House of Representatives is planning to bring a coronavirus relief bill to a vote the first week of February, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday, as President Joe Biden's administration grapples with a crisis that has killed more than 400,000 Americans.

"We will be doing our committee work all next week so that we will be completely ready to go to the floor when we come back," Pelosi said.

Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 bill that would provide enhanced jobless benefits and direct cash payments to households struggling amid the economic fallout from the virus. Though Biden's Democratic party holds narrow majorities in the House and Senate, the legislation will likely need bipartisan support to clear procedural hurdles and emerge from the Senate.

Some Republicans have raised questions about pushing out more direct payments on the heels of last month's enactment of a coronavirus aid bill. Many of them also oppose aid to state and local governments, a top priority of Democrats. Republican Senator Roy Blunt told reporters that while there were some items in the package he could back, he thought the proposal in its current form would be unlikely to pass. "I suspect the whole package is a non-starter, but it's got plenty of starters in it," Blunt said.

Trump impeachment "coming soon" says Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined another opportunity to confirm when she will be sending the article of impeachment charging former President Donald Trump with inciting an insurrection to the Senate. “I’m not going to be telling you when it is going. The other questions are about how a trial would proceed. We are ready,” she explained

Some sources have suggested that the article could be sent on Friday, which would pave the way for a trial to begin as early as next week. Pelosi however refused to put a time frame for Trump's impeachment, stating only that. "It will be soon".

McConnell wants protections for filibuster 

Democrats and Republicans are negotiating how to share power in the Senate which is evenly split 50-50. As Vice President Kamala Harris will preside over the Senate giving the Democrats 51 votes in the case of a tie, which will give control of the body to the Democrats. There has been talk amongst progressives to remove the filibuster which can require that legislation reach a higher vote threshold in order to pass of 60 or even 67.

Bernie calls for using "reconciliation" to pass ARP

Bernie Sanders presents his argument for using "reconciliation" a Senate parliamentary tool whereby legislation related to the budget can be passed with a simple majority of 51 votes Thus avoiding a filibuster which would put a 60-vote threshold for any bill to pass.

He wants the entirety of the American Rescue Plan to be passed, including $1400 stimulus checks, expanded unemployment benefits and a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour, just to name a few of the measures.

The economy will grow once we feel safe

Reuters: The best measure of success for the new US government of President Joe Biden will be the speed at which it rolls out covid-19 vaccines, BlackRock Chief Executive Larry Fink said on Thursday.

Speaking at online event organized by a business forum linked to Italy’s G20 presidency, Fink said he was confident the new administration would focus on sustainability in the first 90 days and smother any tensions with other countries.

It’s about ... have America stand again for the principles of democracy ... and multilateralism ... and at the same time be aggressive and forthright in terms of the rollout of the vaccination,” the head of the world’s biggest asset manager said.

Fink said it was a priority to rebalance the economy given the uneven impact of the pandemic across different sectors, but that could not happen until the population reached herd immunity and industries built on “aggregation” could be revived.

“The economy will accelerate ... (once) we feel safe and secure again,” he said.

Biden's 100 day plan

Biden has laid out an ambitious set of goals to tackle wide ranging problems facing the US in his first 100 days, he began hours after being sworn in.

Read the full story:

A little more room to breathe

Following his inauguration ceremony, new US president Joe Biden was quickly back at work, and millions of students, past and present, are keen to know his plans.

Read the full story:

I'm not joking when I say this, if you ever work with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I will fire you on the spot. No ifs, ands, or buts. Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity. That's been missing in a big way the last four years.

 

Joe Biden, President 

Investors are optimistic 

Stock markets around the world racked up record highs on Thursday as investors bet major stimulus from new US President Joe Biden. US stocks are set to build on a record run-up when Biden presents his plan to tackle the pandemic, he is set to sign 10 executive pandemic-related orders On Thursday. Investors are optimistic that Biden will be able to mend political divisions that widened during the past four years and there will be further funds to rebuild the economy.

Jackson out, Franklin in 

As the Bidens settle in to their new residence one change was quickly noticed, the painting of Andrew Jackson has been replaced with one of Bejamin Franklin in the Oval Office. Trump has frequently identified with Jackson, who was elected president on a populist platform and railed against entrenched interests. However, the critics have pointed out that seventh president he had brutal policies against indigenous people and participated in the slave trade. 

Other portraits in the office include Franklin Roosevelt, who also came to office at a time of crisis, in addition to Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, the last two to highlight national unity as they were fierce rivals in life.

Thursday is “Pandemic Day” 

Biden got off to a running start on Wednesday signing 17 executive orders, half of them reversing parts of his predecessor's legacy. Over the next week Biden plans to tackle a new challenge facing the US each day, on Thursday the pandemic will be front and center, one of the most pressing. 

President Joe Biden will sign 10 pandemic-related executive orders on Thursday, his second day in office. The orders will put into action the administration’s strategy to ramp up vaccinations and testing, reopen schools and businesses and increase the use of masks. 

Biden signed a “100 Days Masking Challenge” on Wednesday. The new mask order being implemented will be for travel. Mandatory use of masks will apply to airports and planes, ships, intercity buses, trains and public transportation.  

Other orders include: 

- Requiring travelers from abroad to furnish a negative covid-19 test before departing for the U.S. and quarantine upon arrival.  

- Expand testing and vaccine availability. 

- Address inequities in hard-hit minority communities 

- Require HHS and Dept of Education to provide clear guidance for reopening schools safely. 

A change of tone 

The Recount shows the stark contrast between current and former press briefings as the Biden administration tries to restore the decorum of the presidency. In a side-by-side of former President Trump’s White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer compared to Jen Psaki. President Biden’s newly installed White House Press Secretary.

ICYMI: “The Hill We Climb”

Amanda Gorman delivered a stirring poem “The Hill We Climb,” at Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. She finished the poem shortly after the seditious mob assaulted the US Capitol. At 22 she is the youngest inaugural poet in US history.

The tidy-up begins

CNN Anchor & Chief Nat Sec Correspondent, Jim Sciutto, points us to a quote from new White House covid coordinator, Jeff Zients.

"What we're inheriting is so much worse than we could have imagined," he says.

"People can make decisions and take action based upon the best available evidence"

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, New CDC director on 'heartbreaking' covid-19 pandemic in US

Avoid stimulus payment scams

As we've pointed out below, many stimulus checks are arriving as prepaid debit cards, and some recipients are concerned they could be a scam.

Although these are likely to be genuine, be sure to check out this piece by Emily France on other potential frauds.

Fauci

US intends to join COVAX and remain WHO member - Fauci

The United States under President Joe Biden intends to join the COVAX vaccine facility that aims to deliver vaccines to poor countries, his chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci told the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the announcement to the WHO Executive Board, saying: "This is a good day for WHO and a good day for global health."

Fauci, speaking from Washington by videoconference a day after Biden was inaugurated, said: "President Biden will issue a directive later today which will include the intent of the United States to join COVAX and support the ACT-Accelerator to advance multilateral efforts for covid-19 vaccine, therapeutic, and diagnostic distribution, equitable access, and research and development."

PS

Facts and transparency

Soon to be a familiar face and voice, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki held the first press briefing of Joe Biden's presidency on 20 January 2021, in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP)

Asian stocks climb to record highs on Biden stimulus hopes

Asian stocks scaled to record highs on Thursday as investors were hopeful the incoming Biden administration will be able to secure passage of a massive new stimulus package to cushion the economic damage of the covid-19 pandemic.

Republicans in the US Congress have indicated they are willing to work with President Joe Biden on his administration's top priority, a $1.9 trillion US fiscal stimulus plan, but some are opposed to the price tag. Democrats took control of the US Senate on Wednesday, though they will still need Republican support to pass the program.

But after record high closes on Wall Street Wednesday, markets in Asia reflected relief over an orderly transition of power and strong expectations that US stimulus will provide continued support for global assets.

California resumes Moderna covid-19 vaccine usage after pause

California's health department said on Wednesday it was safe to continue to use a batch of covid-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc for inoculation after a pause on Sunday due to possible allergic reactions, report Reuters.

Moderna said on Tuesday it had received a report from the California Department of Public Health that several people at a center in San Diego were treated for possible allergic reactions after vaccination from one lot of its covid-19 vaccine. The state health department held discussions with various US authorities, including the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and found no scientific basis to continue the pause, state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said in a statement. Moderna confirmed the vaccine would continue to be administered in California when contacted by Reuters.

Moderna has said it is unaware of comparable adverse cases from other vaccination centers which may have administered vaccines from the same batch as the one in the San Diego centre, or from other batches. 'These findings should continue to give Californians confidence that vaccines are safe and effective,' Pan added.

Ted Cruz confusion trends

To reach the position of senator in the United States should come with an assumption that there is a fairly high degree of competency and intelligence. Well, the man with the proud role of representing the State of Texas is doing his best to stamp all over that assumption.

Sen. Ted Cruz posted a tweet early this morning suggesting that the Paris agreement was to do with the views of the people who live in the French capital, appearing completely unaware that it is simply the name of a global accord which was signed in that famous city.

Cruz is, at least, getting plenty of attention for his faux pas (sorry Ted, 'blunder') on social media, which is something he seems to value more than truth and accuracy.

Biden puts US back in the Paris agreement

After Donald Trump had pulled the US out of the accord, while casting doubt on climate science, new president Joe Biden issued an executive order on his first day in office to return.

Trump cast doubt on climate science and asserted that the accord was an economic burden. U.N. climate negotiations have stuttered since then, with multiple summits failing to deliver ambitious action.

'I wouldn't be surprised if they get a standing ovation just by entering the room,' former U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres said, referring to a US return to global climate talks. 'That doesn't mean that they will have a standing ovation forever. They have to prove that they are really determined to make the changes that are necessary.'

Full story:

How can I activate and withdraw cash from the EIP debit card?

Many of the last $600 Economic Impact payments came on an EIP 2 debit card. Here is all you need to know about how to activate and use it.

Read more: 

2021 tax filing season will start on Friday 12 February

The IRS announced that the nation's tax season will start on Friday 12 February, when the tax agency will begin accepting and processing 2020 tax year returns. To speed refunds during the pandemic, the IRS urges taxpayers to file electronically with direct deposit as soon as they have the information they need. People can begin filing their tax returns immediately with tax software companies, including IRS Free File partners. These groups are starting to accept tax returns now, and the returns will be transmitted to the IRS starting 12 February.

Biden inauguration

With the switch from a Donald Trump administration to that of Joseph Biden, many more Americans are expected to be considered and supported, even some who were convinced to vote against their better interests.

Here is a look back at all the formalities and entertainment that formed a part of the inauguration.

Stimulus check and US latest news: welcome

Welcome to our live blog bringing you all the latest information on the proposed third round of stimulus checks, as well as live US political news that may affect it.

Much of the focus yesterday was understandably on the departure of President Donald Trump from the White House and President Joe Biden's inauguration. Now that the veteren Democrat politician is in the hot seat, it's time to get down to business. And he hasn't been slow...

.