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Third stimulus check: what did Biden say about pushing for payments?

As many in his party are pushing for regular, monthly direct cash payments to help struggling Americans, the key is what President Joe Biden wants.

Third stimulus check: what did Biden say about pushing for payments?

On Friday, as a very busy January for President Joe Biden drew towards its end, the new leader told Congress lawmakers that they must take immediate action on his $1.9 trillion covid-19 relief proposal. The case on further economic stimulus was clear he said, and it was backed up by most economists.

Biden makes case for urgent stimulus check action

"We have to act now," was the simple headline from Biden as he spoke to reporters at his new home, the White House.

"There is an overwhelming concensus among economists ... that this is a unique moment and the cost of inaction is high," he continued.

US President Joe Biden.
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US President Joe Biden.JIM WATSONAFP

"The cost of inaction is high"

President Joe Biden

Biden spoke as Democrats who lead the US Senate and House of Representatives prepared to take the first steps next week toward delivering fresh assistance to Americans and businesses reeling from a pandemic that has killed more than 433,000 people. This new bill follows on Congress enacting $4 trillion in covid-19 relief in 2020.

A divided Congress to begin work

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the sharply divided chamber would begin work on robust legislation next week, despite misgivings among Republicans and some Democrats about the size of Biden's proposal.

With the 100-seat Senate split 50-50 and Vice President Kamala Harris wielding the tie-breaking vote, Democrats are preparing to use a parliamentary tool called "reconciliation" that would allow chamber to approve covid-19 relief with a simple majority. Because of Senate rules, legislation usually requires 60 votes to pass the chamber.

"There is no time for any delays," Biden said on Friday. "We could end up with 4 million fewer jobs this year ... It could take a year longer to return to full employment if we don't act and don't act now."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicted on Thursday that both chambers of Congress would be ready to move forward through reconciliation by the end of next week.

Stimulus pressure from Democractic progressives

Ilhan OmarAyanna Pressley and Chellie Pingree are among a group of 56 House Democrats who are petitioning for the Biden administration to include regular, recurring cash payments into the next Covid-19 relief bill. Ilhan Omar, Representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district wrote a letter addressed to President Biden and Vice President Harris urging them to provide a lifeline to struggling Americans to get through “the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression”.

Omar believes that issuing a one-off payment will not be enough for most low earners to get by while others have pointed out that a single check for $1,400 would last most people a couple of months before they are back to square one. According to a proposed course of action laid out by the Economic Security Project, recurring payments would:

- Help families meet basic needs

- Shorten the recession

- Promote racially equitable outcomes

- Boost state and local economies

- Complement other relief programmes

In her letter to President Biden and Vice President Harris, Ilhan Omar wrote: "It is clear that during this unprecedented time in our nation’s history that we must take additional unprecedented action. We kindly request that your incoming administration consider including support for recurring cash payments in your future economic relief plans. Recurring payments would provide a long-term lifeline to struggling Americans for the duration of this deadly pandemic. Data shows the CARES Act payments were the primary reason that poverty feel by as many as four million people at the start of the recession."

Omar added that many families “cannot afford to wait for eight months between payments, families need ongoing relief”.

The Economic Security Project proposes an initial payment of $1,400 which will rise to recurring, monthly payments of $2,000 until the economy recovers. That would be followed by quarterly payments of $2,000 for one year or until the employment rate (EPOP) reaches 60%. The plan would target those in the bottom 60% in terms of annual earnings, with a maximum phase-out for those earning a combined income of $100,000 (e.g. a married couple with children).

While Omar’s letter did not mention a specific figure for a recurring stimulus check, Vice President Harris did support a proposal for monthly payments of $2,000 as part of the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act in May last year.

The plan has gained support from a number of Democrats, including Massachusetts' Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Maine Rep. Chellie Pingree who tweeted this week: “$2,000 monthly payments until the pandemic is over”.

Two thirds of Americans would support recurring payments

According to the results of a poll conducted by Data for Progress last month, 65% of participants were in favour of a monthly, $2,000 direct cash payment to every person for the duration of the pandemic in the next Covid-19 relief bill. 60% of independent voters support the measure, along with 54% of Republicans.

But even if Biden ends up backing the push for monthly stimulus payments, there is no guarantee that it would ever get through Congress. Many Republicans in the Senate have already expressed concern about the price of the $1.9tn American Rescue Plan and would be dead against racking up even more debt with a recurring payment scheme.