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Third stimulus check: how will they be targeted?

The American Rescue Plan includes a round of direct payments worth up to $1,400 but Senators have passed an amendment calling for the checks to be more focused.

The American Rescue Plan includes a round of direct payments worth up to $1,400 but Senators have passed an amendment calling for the checks to be more focused.

A month after President Joe Biden first took office it seems that he is finally close to agreeing terms of his flagship covid-19 relief package. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was first announced in early January and is set to be officially proposed in the House next week.

Biden had faced push-back from Republican lawmakers for the bill’s cost, but he has maintained that it is necessary spending. Included in the bill is a third round of stimulus checks, this time worth up to $1,400 per person, which he appears set on.

However there is still time for some alterations to be made before the bill is signed into law and some have speculated that Senators may look to make the direct payments more targeted, but what does this mean?

Bipartisan amendment calls for stimulus checks to be focused on the most vulnerable

Before the bill reaches the House it has already cleared a number of hurdles, including a Senate session in which Vice President Kamala Harris was required to break a 50-50 split in the Upper House.

Her deciding vote gave the Democrats the power to pass the package with just a simple majority in future, meaning they could do so without Republican support. However the session also featured a ‘vote-a-rama’ in which Senators are free to propose as many amendments as they see fit.

One such amendment came from the bipartisan pair of Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Susan Collins, who called for the new bill to block “upper income citizens” from receiving the third round of stimulus checks.

The amendment continues: “uncertainty whether all the Senate Democrats will support President Joe Biden’s full plan, with Joe Manchin already expressing doubts about the need to send $1,400 stimulus checks to those that might not need the money.”

The amendment was passed with a resounding 99-1 vote, but it does not include a fixed definition of the phrase “upper income citizens”. In a statement after the vote Collins simply said that she expected the measure to ensure that stimulus checks go to “the struggling families that need it most”.

What are the current plans for a targeted stimulus check?

The $1,400 stimulus checks appear to be set in stone but there is some room to manoeuvre on the eligibility requirements. In Biden’s original plan, the full amount was to be paid to single filers earning no more than $75,000 per year and married couples who earning up to $150,000.

Biden has even addressed the need to focus the payments directly, saying he wanted “to target that money, so folks making $300,000 don’t get any windfall.”

However there has been pressure from some lawmakers to reduce these thresholds, or at least to make the phase out for higher earners more abrupt. If your earning are higher than those levels the amount you are able to receive gradually phases out, from $1,400 to nothing. As it stands that upper limit stands at $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for married couples.

“These details are not yet final and could see further adjustment,” Ed Mills, Washington policy analyst at Raymond James, said recently, “but so far have received little pushback from moderate Democrats who sought a greater degree of targeting for upper-income payment recipients.”


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