Third stimulus check updates for Wednesday 3 February
- Democrats begin process to pass Biden's $1.9trn stimulus bill without bipartisan support
- Group of 10 GOP senators had proposed new $600bn covid relief bill with $1,000 stimulus checks (full details)
- President Biden met with Republican lawmakers on Monday to discuss stimulus bill proposals
- Biden holding out for $1,400 stimulus checks in his $1.9tn American Rescue Plan
- Group of 50 House Democrats call on Biden to consider recurring $2,000 stimulus checks
- President may agree to alter eligibility requirements for stimulus checks (full story)
- Adult dependents could be entitled to $2,000 stimulus checks ($1,400 + $600) as retroactive payment
- Proposal could see child tax credit max entitlement raised to $3,600 per dependent in stimulus plan (full details)
- Democrats willing to use 'reconciliation' to pass stimulus bill in Congress
- Group of prominent women calls for $2,400 stimulus checks for mothers
- US covid-19 cases/deaths: >26.4 million / 446,901 (live updates)
Student loan freeze gives borrowers breathing room
President Biden gave student loan borrowers some extra breathing room when he extended the freeze on student-loan payments and interest accruing on those loans until October. This is a continuation of a policy put into place under his predecessor's administration in March 2020.
The borrowers have been using the money that they would have otherwise had to use to pay back their loans on other basic necessities or to pay down other debts they have. It has also given some borrowers a chance to pay down the principal on their loans or put more money in the bank.
Democrats need every member's vote to pass stimulus
Biden has urged Democrats to work across the aisle with their Republican colleagues to pass a bipartisan coronavirus stimulus package. But he and his party also want to move fast.
The first offer from 10 GOP Senators was barely a third of what he and Democrats are seeking to rebuild the US economy. The proposal left out some key features that Biden and Democrats want in the final package.
So it appears that the Democrats will move forward relying only on votes from their party. With the Senate evenly split 50-50, that will give the moderates in the party much more say over what the final bill will look like.
More targeted stimulus checks
There has been much talk about lowering the cap for who should be eligible to receive a stimulus check in the third round.
This will curry favor with Republicans and moderate Democrats who want to bring the price tag down on Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
On the other end progressives cite that eligibility is based on income information that is out of date and many that are in need will miss out on a immediate direct payment when it is most needed.
Who supports expanding the Child Tax Credit?
Biden’s proposed Child Tax Credit expansion could bring over 50 percent of US children out of poverty. Democrats are onboard, will Republicans follow suit?
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Democrats may drop paid sick leave from covid-19 rescue bill
There’s unlikely to be any formal paid sick leave in the latest coronavirus rescue bill unless at least 10 Republicans sign on to it, despite the policy’s proven effectiveness in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, according to three congressional aides who spoke to HuffPost.
Without Republican support, Democrats will also likely have to leave out paid family and medical leave, illustrating the limitations of Democrats’ razor-thin majority in such a deeply partisan Congress.
Democratic aides said they didn’t see a way to include a requirement that companies provide paid leave under the constraints of budget reconciliation, a legislative process Democrats are pursuing to pass legislation in the Senate with only a simple majority.
San Francisco sues its own school district, demands restart of in-person instruction
In what could be the nation's first such case, the city of San Francisco filed suit Wednesday against its own school district, demanding the restart of in-person instruction for more than 52,000 students.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera named the San Francisco Board of Education, the San Francisco Unified School District and Superintendent Vincent Matthews as defendants in what the city says is an unprecedented legal fight between overlapping government agencies over how to reopen classes during the pandemic.
Herrera said the board has had more than 10 months to develop a plan to get students back into classrooms and so far "they have earned an F."
Mitch McConnell on Democrats stimulus bill
Speaking on the Democrats' decision to begin the process to pass Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus bill without bipartisan support:
"It looks like the majority is going to have us vote on the motion to proceed to the budget this afternoon. They've chosen a totally partisan path."
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House Rule Committee discuss removal of Taylor Greene from committees over racist views
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced on Wednesday that House Democrats will move to oust GOP lawmaker of Georgia Marjorie Taylor Greene from her committee assignments over her embrace of the QAnon conspiracy theory and violent political rhetoric. The House Rules Committee is meeting on Wednesday to address Greene’s possible removal from two committees ahead of a vote on the full House floor on Thursday.
US opening first mass covid-19 vaccination sites in California
The effort is a change in course from the Trump administration, which left vaccine administration largely to the states.
The federal government will open its first coronavirus vaccination sites in California as part of the Biden administration’s push to ramp up the number of Americans receiving shots and reach those most at risk of developing severe illness.
One center will be housed in the Oakland Coliseum where the Oakland Athletics baseball team plays and the other will be on the campus of California State University, Los Angeles. Both will be adjacent to communities hardest hit by the pandemic, said Jeffrey Zients, President Joe Biden's lead covid-19 coordinator. The facilities will be staffed mostly with federal employees.
“These sites in California are just the beginning,” Zients said. “We are working with, in partnership, in states across the country to stand up new sites and will have more to say on that in the coming weeks.”
Woman charged in Capitol riot asks to go on vacation to Mexico
A Texas woman charged in connection with the Capitol insurrection has asked a federal judge to let her travel to Mexico for a "work-related bonding retreat," according to court records.
Jenny Cudd, a flower shop owner and unsuccessful mayoral candidate from Midland, wrote to a federal judge on Monday asking for permission to visit Riviera Maya, Mexico, for a four-day retreat this month.
The court docket for her case doesn't yet show a response from the judge, according to a report by CNN today.
Proud Boys Designated a Terrorist Group in Canada
Canada became the first country to designate the far-right Proud Boys group a terrorist organisation on Wednesday, saying that they "played a pivotal role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol."
In a statement made by Canada's Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, the country has declared the Proud Boys "a neo-fascist organisation" that has "openly encouraged, planned, and conducted violent activities against those they perceive to be opposed to their ideology and political beliefs."
The male-only group of self-described "Western chauvinists" joins a list that includes Al-Qaeda and ISIS as government officials try to track down on the nation's "most serious threats."
Stimulus check eligiblity requirements criticised for potentially excluding millions
President Biden appears intent on sticking to the $1,400 stimulus checks that he first proposed in his American Rescue Plan but there could be some room to manouvre on the eligibility requirements. So far he has kept the income thresholds (the main deciding factor in how much you can receive) the same as with previous rounds of payment.
However there are concerns that, because the income data would be based on pre-pandemic earnings it will not take into account the millions who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. There are additional unemployment benefits included as part of Biden's bill, but as is pointed out here it seems pretty counter-intuitive to exclude anyone who has lost their job from the stimulus check payments.
Stimulus bill negotiations to take precedence over Biden's cabinet
The first few weeks of a new administration are always a busy time in Congress but this year's schedule looks particularly full. On Tuesday Biden's new Transportation Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, was sworn in but it seems that he will be the last of Biden's cabinet appointments to be confirmed for a while.
Congress is now expected to be focuses on the passing of Biden's flagship economic relief bill for the rest of the week at the very least. Republicans had opposed many elements of the package, such as the round of $1,400 stimulus checks, but Democrats have initiated the process to use reconciliation to pass the bill without bipartisan support.
Even with this option the Senate will still have to hold debates on the subject and Biden has promised to allow Republicans to discuss the stimulus package, with a willingness to make some alterations. From next week there will be another huge item on the Senate agenda as the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump is set to begin.
Biden reasserts belief that middle classes need stimulus checks
In recent days the eligibility requirements for covid-19 economic impact payments have been much-discussed as Republican senators looked to slash the number of Americans able to receive the full amount in the next wave of stimulus checks. A group of 10 GOP lawmakers proposed a new bill which would see around 80 million fewer Americans entitled to the full amount than Biden's plan does.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden sees stimulus checks as a vital form of support, even amongst middle earners.
She said: "His [Biden's] view is that at this point in the country, when one in seven Americans do not have enough food to eat, people need to get the relief that that need and [should not be] left behind".
Stimulus checks the priority for new economic relief bill
A new Hill-HarrisX poll has found that stimulus checks are a top priority for most voters as they wait with anticipation for Biden's coronavirus relief bill to be finalised.
The study, carried out between 28-29 January, found that 54% of registered voters said direct payments were among the top three most important measures for the next relief package. In terms of priorities, small business aid and money for covid-19 testing and vaccinations were next on the list.
Of those asked, 34% said that rent and mortgage relief was amongst their top three priorities, while unemployment benefits was a priority for 32%. Both are included in Biden's American Rescue Plan, with additional unemployment benefits potentially extended through September.
Just 7% of those asked said there was no need for another covid-19 stimulus bill.
Analysts suggest majority of stimulus check money will be saved
According to analysis released earlier today by the Penn-Wharton Budget Model (PWBM), 73% of the funds that would be sent to Americans under President Biden’s stimulus check proposal will be used for household savings. Biden's American Rescue Plan contains a round of $1,400 payments, of which they estimate just 27% will be used immediately.
John Ricco, a senior analyst with PWBM, told The Hill that they analysed different income groups are likely to use the additional money and the propensity for households to spend the economic relief immediately.
“At this point in the pandemic, we find that there is a lot of additional money flowing into households that don’t necessarily have the ability to spend that on additional goods and services,” Ricco said.
New round of stimulus checks edges closer
On Tuesday the Democrats won a Senate vote 50-49 to open debate on a budget resolution for the 2021 fiscal year. This clears the way for the use of reconciliation to pass the President’s relief plan with a simple majority rather than the 60-vote supermajority needed for most legislation.
The Senate will take up final passage of the resolution on Thursday while the House is also voting this week on its version as well. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that there was still opportunity for the Republicans to tweak the stimulus package with their input, but added that speed is of vital importance to get the support out to those in need.
“We are not going to dilute, dither or delay,” said Schumer on the Senate floor.
What has Biden said about $2,000 stimulus checks in the past?
President Joe Biden has argued for greater direct support for Americans since winning the election last November but some have accused him of shifting his position since taking office. Some are disappointed that stimulus checks worth only $1,400 per person are included in his new covid-19 relief bill.
This new proposal comes after the White House received a counter-offer from House progressives calling on him to prioritize recurring payments over a one-time payment for those most in need. With those in his own party calling for greater funding, he seems unlikely to settle for the Republican-proposed $1,000 stimulus checks.
Reconciliation can be used to pass Biden's stimulus bill
On Tuesday night the Senate voted on the use of a budgetary process known as bipartisanship to pass Biden's American Rescue Plan without a supermajority. Under usual rules the stimulus bill would need to garner 60 votes in the 100-member chamber to be passed, but this would allow it to be passed with a simple majority of 50+1.
This may well spell the end of Republicans' hopes to make any significant alterations to the $1.9 trillion package proposed by the President. Biden has previously signalled that he is open to changing eligibility requirements for stimulus checks but if he uses reconciliation he should be able to pass the whole bill.
Biden and GOP stimulus bill proposals compared
The size of the next covid-19 economic relief bill in the focus of much attention in the Capitol at the moment after the President met with a group of 10 Republican senators on Monday, in search of a bipartisan solution to the deadlock in Congress.
The GOP proposal comes to around $600 billion, around a third of the $1.9 trillion package proposed by Biden. As this graphic shows, some of the key areas to be hit in the Republican bill are education and stimulus checks. They are pushing for a round of $1,000 stimulus checks, and are looking to decrease the eligibility threshold to discount millions of Americans.
Will the new round of stimulus check payments be limited?
In recent weeks there has been growing opposition from Republicans over the state of Biden's American Rescue Plan, the covid-19 relief bill which provides a round of $1,400 stimulus checks.
Biden had hoped to expand elgibility considerably, allowing adult dependents to receive the direct payments to increase the total number of recipients by around 29 million.
But Biden has also said he is "open" to negotiation over the eligibility requirements for a third round of stimulus checks. White House press secretary Jen Psaki has told reporters the US president wants greater access to direct payments than is being proposed by a group of Republican senators.
Stimulus checks threshold could be lowered to just $50,000
Following his meeting with the group of ten GOP lawmakers on Monday evening, reports suggest that President Biden is considering lowereing the top threshold of stimulus check eligibility considerably. He has repeatedly stated that he is focusing on those worst hit during the early months of his presidency but this could be a very unpopular move with middle-earners.
The previous round of covid-19 stimulus check payments were offered in full for individuals earning less than $100,000-a-year, or less than $200,000 for joint-filers. The Washington Post reports that those limits could be brought down to $50,000 and $100,000 respectively as Biden looks to build support amongst Republicans. The top entitlement of $1,400 per person appears to be staying.
100 million stimulus checks sent within hours
As the economic fall-out of the pandemic continues to disrupt the livelihoods of millions of Americans, the next round of stimulus checks is looking increasingly vital. The $600 payments from January were little more than a stop-gap, so the speed of distribution will be vital once the new deal is signed into law.
Fortunately, the IRS has reported that during the second round of stimulus check payments they were able to send out over 113 million paymnets in just seven hours, smashing the pace of the previous round. Having ironed out the kinks in their administrative system they should be able to do the same for the new payments, whenever they arrive.
Biden's proposal would see adult dependents included in stimulus payments, meaning that an additional 29 million Americans should be eligible to receive up to $2,000 of direct support.
Everything you need to know about the Republicans' stimulus check offer
On Sunday a group of ten Republican Senators sent a letter to the White House informing them of a $600 billion covid-19 economic relief package currently being drafted by GOP lawmakers. The package is a counter-proposal to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan which President Biden first announced in January.
The group met with Biden on Monday evening to discuss their proposal and it is thought that he is open to negotiating on some elements of the package if it means he gets bipartisan approval. However the GOP offer slashes the total amount spent on a new round of stimulus checks so it may not be possible to find common ground.
Biden should "go big" on stimulus checks, says leading economist
Havard economist Raj Chetty has told CNN that he believes the stimulus checks should be better targeted to ensure that the money is used to boost the economy and provide much-needed support. It comes as studies suggest that higher earning are more likely to have saved the stimulus checks.
Research shows that most recipients earning less than around $75,000 spent their stimulus checks almost immediately, signalling the importance of getting the much-needed resource out promptly. After months without direct support, many needed the $600 payments from January to pay off debts or back payments for rent.
Biden is reportedly open to tightening the eligibility requirements slightly to reduce the upper thresholds after facing opposition from Republicans for the size of the bill. Doing so would reduce the number of people able to receive the stimulus checks
Goldman Sachs: final stimulus bill may be smaller than first proposed
Financial analysts Goldman Sachs have said that they think it is unlikely that all of Biden's American Rescue plan will be included in the final package. Biden's proposal costs $1.9 trillion but has faced criticism from Republicans in recent days who deem it too expensive.
One of the areas where he may have to reduce spending is stimulus checks, with GOP lawmakers making a counter-proposal with checks worth $1,000, considerably less than the $1,400 Biden was offering.
Biden will fight to keep the maximum allowance at $1,400, but may decide to tighten eligibilty requirements to reduce the amount of people receiving the support. He has focused his economic support in recent weeks on helping those most vulnerable and this would allow him to do so.
How did the $2,000 stimulus checks end up at $1,400?
It all started with promises of a $2,000 stimulus check. This was to follow the $1,200 issued early in the covid-19 pandemic - as part of the CARES Act last March - and the $600 check that was one of Donald Trump's final acts in office.
But even before taking office President Joe Biden announced full details of his American Rescue Plan, which included a round of stimulus checks worth just $1,400. What happened to his previous promises and what changed?
Concerns that new stimulus limites are based on out-of-date numbers
The first two rounds of stimulus checks sent out were based on taxpayers 2018 or 2019 tax filing. They were an advanced payment for a tax rebate on income tax filings for the 2020 fiscal year.
However that data may now be incorrects and tens of millions of Americans have had some change of situation since they last filed their annual earnings with the IRS. In response to Biden's American Rescue Plan a group of Republicans senators proposed a new package which would see eligibility narrowed and roughly 30 million discounted from receiving checks.
“This is not targeting. It is the illusion of targeting, an illusion that will end up hurting tens of millions of people who are currently in need but weren’t in 2019.” Matt Bruenig, founder of the People’s Policy Project.
Americans feel the weight of student loan repayments
President Joe Biden has repeatedly spoken of his desire to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt to help students deal with the pandemic, but this measure didn’t make it into his American Rescue Plan. He did sign an executive order extending a freeze on student loan payments and interest but many are hoping he will go further.
Student loan debt has ballooned in the US over the past decade with many now feeling trapped by the mountain of debt they accumulated while studying. The Office star Ed Helms produced a short movie to show how the student debt crisis threatens to cripple a generation.
GOP proposal would see stimulus check provision reduced
On Monday evening a group of ten moderate Republican senators met with President Biden in the Oval Office to discuss the future of the covid-19 economic relief bill that he hopes to pass in the coming days.
The meeting was the result of a letter, sent by the group’s leader Senator Susan Collins of Maine, informing Biden of a counter-proposal being drafted. Unlike Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the GOP package includes around $600 billion of federal funding and reduces the stimulus check provision considerably.
This means a big reduction to direct payments with the stimulus checks reduced from $1,400 to $1,000, and nearly 30 million Americans disqualified from access.
American Rescue Plan boosts earnings for low-wage workers
Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue plan includes a third round of stimulus checks, this time worth up to $1,400. But there are also a raft of new initiatives aimed at improving conditions for the working class, including new minimum wage proposals.
Businesses are in favour of a lot of the plan's proposals, but some have said the $15 minimum wage could hurt them. The US Chamber of Commerce has publicly stated its opposition to the hike. However data form the Economic Policy Institute suggests that raising the minimum wage nationwide would not lead to job losses.
Economist Ben Zipperer of the EPI said: "Those kinds of scare stories are theoretically possible, but they don't actually play out in the data. When there has been historically in the United States minimum wage increases ... the legislation tends to do what it's intended to do, that it raises wages and earnings for low-wage workers, without any sizable downside."
Nearly 30 million could miss out in Republicans' bill
On Monday evening a group of ten moderate Republicans met with President Biden in the Oval Office to discuss the new covid-19 economic relief bill, which they believe is too large. They proposed a counter offer costing around a third as much, which significantly reduced stimulus check provision.
CNN reports that in Biden's proposal: "People earning less than $75,000 and couples earning less than $150,000 would receive the full amount under Biden's plan and payments would gradually phase out."
The GOP package would lower these threshold so fewer people would be able to recieve them. It is thought that around 29 million Americans would miss out under the Republican proposal.
Democrat support for reconciliation grows
Developments in the recent days suggest that Biden is unlikely to find the support required from Republicans to pass his new relief bill with bipartisan support. Instead he will have to rely on a Senate mechanism known as reconciliation to pass the package.
But with the Senate split evenly 50-50 the Democrats need every vote from their caucus. One possible bump in the road was Senator Joe Manchin, who Democrats need to get to 50 votes, with Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking 51st vote. But Manchin has now signaled that he is open to using reconciliation to move the bill forward.
What is in the American Rescue Plan?
Before taking office President Biden promised swift action to address the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic and after signing a raft of executive orders in his first week, he is now concentrating on his top priority.
His new stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan, is the largest since the CARES Act was signed last March and includes a round of $1,400 stimulus checks.