CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS CHECKS

Third stimulus check: how does the $600 billion GOP plan compare with the previous relief proposals?

Several proposals have been put forward to deal with the pandemic-induced economic crisis, a third one is in the works with details being hammered out.

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Third stimulus check: how does the $600 billion GOP plan compare with the previous relief proposals?
SAUL LOEB AFP

President Joe Biden has put forward a new $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill called the American Rescue Plan. Since the release of its details counter-offers have been presented by both House progressives and Republicans. How does the most recent proposal by 10 GOP Senators compare to previous plans?

The price tag of just over $600 billion is less than a third of what the White House is calling for and around a quarter of the CARES Act from the spring and the bill House Democrats passed in the autumn. The latter never got a hearing in the Republican-controlled Senate where then Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to get his own “skinny” relief bill passed to no avail.

The latest GOP offer leaves out several features that Democrats and President Biden are pushing for such as a minimum wage hike to $15 which is a non-starter for the Republicans. The plan also takes away child tax credits, money for state and local governments and rental assistance being proposed in the American Rescue Plan. The GOP plan also drastically cuts aid for reopening schools, a priority for the Biden administration and cuts in half what Biden wants for child care.

Here is breakdown on two of the main differences between each plan and how they compare with previous measures.

Parred down stimulus checks

Both the GOP plan and Biden’s provide for another round of direct payments but the amount of the former is slightly less, just $1000, with more narrowed qualifications for who would get them. Biden and Democrats have called for a top-up to $2000 by sending out a $1400 stimulus check. Under the Biden plan the new payments would go to adult dependents that were left out of the earlier rounds, like some children over the age of 17. However in the GOP plan dependent adults and children would receive $500.

Although the income qualifications for Biden’s haven’t been specified it is thought that it would be along the lines of the previous direct payments, individuals earning $75,000 and couples earning $150,000. The Republican plan lowers the full payment cutoff to $40,000 for individuals and $80,000 for couples. Payments would phase out as the incomes exceeded the threshold in both plans.

Alternate plan for stimulus payments

A group of 56 House progressives presented their own plan to Biden asking him to prioritize recurring payments for the duration of the pandemic instead of a one-time payment. They called for the payments to go to those most in need and who would spend the quickest to help speed up the recovery. They didn’t specify the amount of those recurring but it was assumed the amount would be $2000.

The $2000 amount gained life after former President Trump at first refused to sign the covid-19 relief bill passed in December if the direct payments weren’t raised from the $600 amount agreed to in the bill. This amount matched what Democrats had been calling for in the HEROS Act that they passed in the House but never got a hearing in the Senate. As part of the CARES Act Congress approved $1200 Economic Impact Payments to eligible adults with $500 for eligible children.

Less unemployment benefits

The 10 GOP Senators are proposing more limited unemployment benefits, fearing that if they are too generous it will discourage people from going back to work. In their plan extended unemployment benefits would run through June with an additional payment of $300 per week. This matches the amount agreed to in the December covid-19 relief plan which will expire in March. Biden’s plan calls for an additional $400 payments per week in federal funds on top of state benefits to be paid through September along with two key programs.

Both plans are less than what was passed under the CARES Act in the spring where the federal government chipped in an extra $600 per week in unemployment benefits on top of state benefits. State benefits which usually run for 26 weeks got a federal extension of 13 weeks. The covid-19 plan in December extended those benefits another 11 weeks into March.

Under Biden’s plan those who have used up their state benefits would still receive payments through September. As well as those who can’t work because of the pandemic such as the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers and people who have to stay home to take care of children or family.