Third stimulus check news summary: 24 February 2021

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Stimulus relief bill updates - Wed 24 February 2021

Headlines:

- House Budget Committee formally approves $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (when will Congress vote?)

- California Gov Newsom signs $600 Golden State stimulus check legislation (who qualifies?)

- Over 150 CEOs sign open letter urging Congress to pass new stimulus bill

- Some Democrats oppose Biden's ARP (who and why?)

- IRS tax return could decide your third stimulus check entitlement (how does this affect you?)

- Senate Democrats target inclusion of a boost in the federal minimum wage as part of stimulus bill.

- US consumer spending in January up on previous year's thanks to stimulus check boost

- Child tax credit expansion and stimulus check boost could halve child poverty in the US, study explains

- Get the latest stimulus check news in Spanish (las noticias sobre los cheques de estímulo en español)

US covid-19 cases/deaths: 28.3 million / 502,681 (live updates)

The price tag in the end is just so inordinately high and has too many extraneous things in it to gain any real support in the Republican Party.

Shelley Moore Capito, Republican Senator, West Virginia

Critics say my plan is too big, that it cost $1.9 trillion; that’s too much...

Let me ask them, what would they have me cut?

Joe Biden, POTUS
JP

Stimulus talk from Powell sees world shares rise

In a second day of testimony in Washington, US Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell reiterated the Fed's promise to get the US economy back to full employment and to not worry about inflation unless prices rose in a persistent and troubling way.

"Powell said it will take three years for them to achieve its inflation target, essentially reaffirming the Fed will not raise interest rates until 2023," said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

"A huge amount of cash investors have to work is flowing into the stock market, and that is more than offsetting any negative aspects of higher bond yields."

The prospects of a prolonged period of low interest rates came as investors expect a huge US fiscal stimulus and a progress in covid-19 vaccinations to shore up the economy, especially the sectors hit the hardest by the pandemic.

Stimulus Sanders: polling favorably

Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the most outspoken stimulus proponents in Congress, has a higher net favorability rating than both President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, according to a new poll.

A poll released Tuesday by The Economist/YouGov found that while 39 percent of respondents said they had either a "somewhat" or "very" unfavorable view of Sanders, 49 percent said they had a very or somewhat favorable view, giving him a net favorability rating of 10 points.

Biden had a net favorability rating of 8 points due to 50 percent of respondents having a favorable view and another 42 percent having an unfavorable view of the president. Net favorability for Harris was 5 points, with 48 percent viewing her favorably and 43 percent viewing her unfavorably.

Stimulus check paid for by US billionaires

Former Secretary of Labor, and now Berkeley professor, Robert Reich, has suggested that any Republican concerns over the US building more debt in order to give a small helping hand to poorer citizens could be assuaged by using the profits made by the very richest to pay for it.

'The $1.3 trillion wealth gain by America's 660 billionaires since the pandemic began could pay for a stimulus check of $3,900 for every one of the 331 million people in the US. And the billionaires would be as rich as they were before the pandemic. Tax the billionaires.'

Biden’s nomination to head OMB in peril 

Neera Tanden’s nomination to head the Office of Management and Budget was beleaguered from the beginning with Republicans voicing opposition from the get-go. As head of the OMB she would oversee the administration’s rollout of stimulus funds and future investments. Currently, one Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin, has expressed opposition to her confirmation forcing the White House to hope that Senator Lisa Murkowski will save the nomination. 

Her confirmation is in peril for confrontational tweets she has posted in the past. However in Dana Milbank’s opinion she was merely telling the truth. As well, he feels the Senators voicing opposition are being hypocritical since they confirmed other appointments in the past with more divisive comments.

President Biden signs executive order to solve chip shortage 

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Wednesday meant to address a global chip shortage impacting industries ranging from medical supplies to electric vehicles. The action follows calls from bipartisan members of Congress and industry leaders warning about the potential consequences of the shortage. 

Biden met with a bipartisan group of lawmakers prior to signing the order to discuss the shortage. He said it was “very productive,” adding “it’s like the old days, people actually were on the same page.” 

The order includes a 100-day review of key products including semiconductors and advanced batteries used in electric vehicles. That will be followed by a broader, long-term review of six sectors of the economy. The long-term review will allow for policy recommendations to strengthen supply chains, with the goal of quickly implementing the suggestions.

Fed payment systems experiences rare glitch 

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday an unspecified error disrupted all of its financial-services systems in an extraordinary event that took down key payment systems used by banks, businesses and government agencies for more than three hours. Officials couldn't remember a similar episode affecting its systems.  

The Fed is known primarily for setting interest rates but it performs a less-public role of acting as a bank for the nation's banks and for the U.S. government. It handles tasks including collecting checks, electronically transferring funds, and selling and redeeming Treasury bills.  

"While root cause is currently being evaluated, there is no indication that the issue is the result of a cyberattack," a Treasury Department official said in a statement.

Third stimulus check calculator: how much could you receive?

Now that the wheels are in motion for Democrats to pass a $1.9tn covid relief bill without the support of the GOP, here's a look at what the scope may be.

Biden administration to deliver more than 25 million masks to health centers, food pantries

First the coronavirus rescue plan with direct stimulus checks, now masks to tackle covid-19 inequality. The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it would distribute more than 25 million masks to over 1,300 community health centers and 60,000 food pantries and soup kitchens in an effort to reach underserved communities and as part of the president's promise to make the pandemic response more equitable. 

Between March and May, the administration will send well-fitted cloth masks, available in child and adult sizes, that can be washed for reuse, White House covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients announced in a news briefing.

California: details on $600 Golden State stimulus check

Who is eligible and how to keep track of your check when it comes. Gov. Gavin Newsom has confirmed details of a new covid-19 relief bill that would see Californians receive direct payments worth up to $600, if eligible.

FDA says single-dose shot from J&J prevents severe covid

Here's hoping a stimulus bill passes through Congress before the latest new vaccine news comes to fruition...

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine offers strong protection against severe covid-19, according to an analysis released Wednesday by U.S. regulators that sets the stage for a final decision on a new and easier-to-use shot to help tame the pandemic.

The long-anticipated shot could offer the nation a third vaccine option and help speed vaccinations by requiring just one dose instead of two. Food and Drug Administration scientists confirmed that overall the vaccine is about 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe covid-19, and about 85% effective against the most serious illness. The agency also said J&J’s shot is safe.

WATCH: Gov. Gavin Newsom of California breaks down key stimulus bill benefits

California is set to deliver on its promise of $600 stimulus checks for Golden State residents, also included in the bill:

- $2 billion in grants to restaurants, hair salons & more

- $24 million in aid to agricultural workers

- $35 million for food banks and diapers

- $100 million in financial aid for community college students

300 small business leaders get behind covid-19 stimulus plan

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shares letter by small business leaders urging Congress to pass the Democrats' coronavirus stimulus relief bill as soon as possible.

The bill is set to include $15 billion in grants to more than 1 million of the hardest-hit small businesses to get them back on their feet.

It also leverages $35 billion for small businesses financing programs, which can generate as much as $175 billion in venture capital and low-interest loans to provide critical access to capital for businesses and entrepreneurs in need.

Third stimulus check: will you get a $1,400 payment and when?

As Congress prepares to pass President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan the new direct payments could soon be in your bank account, but who is eligible for the $1,400 of financial relief?

House Democrats are hopeful of passing President Joe Biden’s covid-19 economic relief bill this week, paving the way for a third stimulus check in mid-March.

Read the full story:

RECAP: California lawmakers to deliver stimulus checks, 5.7 million will get extra $600

California state legislators passed a bill approving $600 stimulus checks for nearly 5.7 million people on Monday. In doing so, they beat U.S. legislators who have not yet approved a plan for issuing $1,400 stimulus checks to U.S. residents in need.

California's checks are part of Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom's $9.6 billion stimulus package meant to help the state recover from the coronavirus-related economic downturn. He and legislative leaders announced the package last Wednesday. Newsom is expected to sign the bill into law by Tuesday.

The $600 checks will be available to Californians who are eligible for the earned income tax credit (EITC). Usually, such Californians earn less than $30,000 a year.

The country is suffering from a once-in-a-century crisis. Democrats are working to quickly deliver the American Rescue Plan and big, bold COVID relief.

Chuck Schumer, New York Senator & Senate Majority Leader

New Paycheck Protection Program: limit, amount and how to apply

The PPP loans have been changed to help small and minority-owned businesses access the financial support. But how do you get the loan and how much could you receive?

Urban states come out ahead, rural states get less in Biden's covid-19 relief bill

Urban states come out ahead, rural states get less in Biden's covid-19 relief bill

Reuters - The $1.9 trillion covid-19 relief package now making its way through the U.S. Congress would provide $350 billion to help pandemic-hit state and local governments balance their budgets, more than twice the amount lawmakers approved last year.

But not every state comes out ahead: urban, Democratic-led states like Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts that took drastic steps to stop the coronavirus’ spread would get about three times as much money per person as they did in the package passed at the beginning of the health crisis in March.

Rural, Republican-led states including Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota that did less would see less cash.

That’s because Congress is giving greater weight to poverty and unemployment this time as it considers how to distribute money to keep police, firefighters and other public employees on the job during a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans and thrown millions out of work.

It also reflects the fact that Democrats who control both chambers of Congress drafted the package for their fellow Democrat President Joe Biden without Republican input.

Under the new bill, named the American Rescue Plan, 61% of the aid would end up in states that voted for Biden in November, up from 56% in the bipartisan CARES Act passed last March.

The new bill is expected to pass, even if no Republicans vote for it.

More details of Republican opposition to covid-19 relief bill, stimulus checks

More details are emerging of GOP members who are dead-set on opposing Democrats' and Biden's $1.9 tn coronavirus relief bill, due to include another round of stimulus checks.

GOP leaders see opposition to bill as key to unifying their party after divisive few months of inter-party squabbling.

What are Americans using their stimulus checks for?

Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey has shared an experience from one of his constituents, outlining how crucial the stimulus checks are for millions of people who have had their livelihoods affected by the pandemic. As we near 12 months since the first large-scale stimulus bill, the CARES Act, being signed into law last March American the total value of these direct payments is still just $1,800. 

That may change in the coming days as Rep. Pascrell, and the rest of the House, is expected to vote on President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan on Friday. The package could well be signed into law in the first half of March, with the first of the $1,400 stimulus check payments potentially going out the following week. 

Stimulus check stance boosts Sanders' popularity

In recent months Sen. Bernie Sanders' outspoken support of stimulus checks and other forms of federal relief, and a poll released by The Economist/YouGov on Tuesday suggests that it has boosted his popularity nationally.

Of the 1,500 American adults questioned, 39% said they had either a "somewhat" or "very" unfavorable view of Sanders, while 49% had a very or somewhat favorable view. This gave him a net favorability rating of 10 points, one of the highest in the survey

Conversely Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had by far the worst rating in the poll, with a net favourability of -48 points. McConnell has been a prominent critic of the Democrat's relief bill and blocked a vote for $2,000 stimulus checks during his final month as Senate Majority leader.

Billionaires could cover the cost of universal stimulus checks

Robert Reich, economic analyst and former United States Secretary of Labor, has suggested that the growing wealth disparity in the US could provide a way to cover the cost of stimulus checks. While food poverty has risen during the pandemic, leaving at least 27 million Americans struggling to put food on the table, the richest in the country have actually seen their wealth increase enormously. 

Republicans in Congress have argued that the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill put forward by the Democrats is too expensive, but Reich argues that the cost of elements like the third stimulus check could comfortably be covered by raising taxes on the wealthiest few. It seems very unlikely that stimulus checks for $3,900 would ever be agreed, but does show that a recurring payment may not be so difficult to fund. 

Which CEOs support Biden's stimulus bill?

As we mentioned earlier, more than 150 CEOs from top US companies have given their backing to the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposed by President Biden. Despite drawing bipartisan support nationally, Republicans in Congress are unhappy with the size of the bill and appear unlikely to vote in favor when it is put to a House vote on Friday. 

The trillions of federal funding are hoped to provide the boost that the American economy needs, with greater support for small businesses and a third stimulus check to increase consumer spending. Goldman Sachs are optimism about the benefits of the new stimulus bill and have projected growth of around 7% this year if the package is passed. 

How to claim a missing stimulus check in your tax return

Congress is preparing to pass a third stimulus check in the coming weeks but there are still millions of Americans who have not yet received at least one of the previous payments. Distribution of both the $1,200 and $600 stimulus checks passed by the Trump adminstration has ended, but that does not mean you cannot get the money. 

The IRS are offering the chance to claim any missing stimulus checks in the form of a Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2021 tax return. To find out how to get the money added to your tax rebate, check out our handy guide. 

Read more:

ICYMI: IRS extends tax return deadline for Texans

The IRS have announced that tax filers in Texas will be given an extra two months to complete their 2021 tax returns, to make up for disruption caused by the extreme weather recently. Winter storms left millions without water or electricity for days and at least 27 Texas residents lost their lives as a result. 

The new deadline for Texans is 15 June, two months later than the national deadline of 15 April. The IRS have so far refused to extend the deadline nationally despite concerns that they may be unable to cope with the huge workload once the American Rescue Plan is signed into law. 

The bill will see stimulus checks sent to at least 160 million people, a process that is to be overseen by the IRS. With millions relying on the $1,400 payment to pay for bills and other essentials, Americans need the direct payments to go out as soon as possible. 

No Republican support expected for Biden's stimulus bill

A senior Republican in the House of Representatives has told CNN's John Harwood that he does not anticipated there will be any members of the GOP voting in favour of the American Rescue Plan when it is put to the floor this Friday. Biden had initially hoped to build some form of bipartisan consensus for the proposal, but has proved unwilling to compromise on key aspects like stimulus checks and unemployment benefits. 

As mentioned here this would not be entirely surprising, given that a similar situation arose after the 2008 financial crash. The Democrats were eager to include more stimulus funding in Obama's relief bill and the Republicans were unwilling to support it. 

House Committee will vote on stimulus bill on Friday

The American Rescue Plan will move to the House Rules Committee on Friday for a largely procedural vote on the constitutionality of the bill. The bill should have little problem passing the Committee, and is expected to be voted on by the House later that day. 

The House vote is expected to be fairly close but with a ten-seat advantage the Democrats will have the numbers to pass the legislation even if no Republicans vote in favour. The two parties have been far apart in their negotiations in recent weeks, with areas like school funding and stimulus checks particularly contentious issues. 

 

Free help with your tax returns from the IRS

The IRS are offering free assistance for individuals who are filing their tax returns, as part of their 'IRS Free File' scheme. They offer two different tiers of support, for taxpayers whose annual earnings are either below or above $72,000. 

Not only will they help you to file you 2021 tax returns correctly, but the program can also secure any missing stimulus check payments that you have not yet received. It is thought that millions of Americans are eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit, which can be used to provide missing stimulus check payments either as a tax deduction or to boost an existing tax rebate. 

Tax authorities prepare for California stimulus checks

On Tuesday Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a relief package known as the Golden State Stimulus, which provides a round of $600 stimulus checks alongside support for small businesses and the hospitality sector. Eligible residents will also be able to receive the $1,400 federal stimulus check when that is agreed

Some who were missed out from previous stimulus check payments may be able to recieve even more, as the bill includes provision for retroactive payments for millions of residents. 

Newsom said of his stimulus bill: “This plan will provide relief for Californians in need by distributing $600 rapid cash support – for some, at least $1,200 when coupled with federal relief – and extend the eviction moratorium.”

Read more:

Stimulus checks provided spending boost in January

A new report from the Wall Street Journal has suggested that the retail spanding in the US experienced a considerable upturn in Janaury as consumers spent the $600 stimulus checks agreed in the emergency relief bill. Retail spending enjoyed the largest increase in seven months, and came at a time when manufacturers were increasing output and employers resumed hiring.

There are hopes that the $1,400 stimulus checks included in the American Rescue Plan will have a similar effect, and studies showed that 88% of the most recent round of direct payments were spent almost immediately. 

Consumer spending is firing on all cylinders,” said James Knightley, an economist at ING Financial Markets LLC, told the Wall Street Journal. 

“The Biden stimulus calls for [unemployment benefits] checks of $400 a week in addition to state checks through September. At that level, the majority of the unemployed would make more by not working. Employers already complain that they can’t find employees.”

Senator Mitt Romney, Republican

Calfornia Rep. calls for recurring stimulus checks

Rep. Barbara Lee of California's 14th district has opened a petition urging Congress to pass recurring stimulus checks worth up to $2,000 per person in the new economic relief bill. On Friday the House is expected to vote on President Biden's American Rescue Plan, which includes a single direct payment of $1,400. 

Upon announcing the proposal, Rep. Lee wrote: "We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to not only pass bold, meaningful legislation to get relief to millions of people who are struggling. We must provide Americans with the most generous package possible to get through the pandemic."

IRS have no plans to extend 2021 tax return deadline

Despite concern that the upcoming round of stimulus checks will overwork the IRS, the federal tax Commissioner Charles Rettig has confirmed that they are not intending to extend the tax return window past the existing 15 April deadline. The IRS oversees both the tax return and stimulus check distribution procedure nationally. 

The only state that will be given longer to file their returns is Texas, were residents are still struggling to deal with the vicious winter storms that left millions without electricity and running water. With much of the state's crucial infrastructure network hit by the extreme weather, Texans will be given until 15 June to get their tax returns in. 

Congressman wants to amend IRS tax return oversight

Rep. Joe Neguse has called on changes to be made to the IRS Social Security system which left one of his constituents facing a bill of $27,000. Neguse refers to an IRS ruling which makes Social Security recipients liable for "surprise tax burdens for widows, new retirees, people with disabilities", which leaves them owing a lump sum to authorities in their tax returns. 

Speaking about his proposal, Negue said: “At a time when so many Americans are suffering financial hardship, there is absolutely no excuse for an oversight like the one addressed by the Fairness in Social Security Act to continue to threaten the financial wellbeing of hard-working Americans.” 

Business leaders call for Congress to pass stimulus bill

A group of more than 150 CEOs has sent an open letter to Congressional leaders from both parties, urging them to pass a bill "along the lines" of President Biden's American Rescue Plan. The package has garnered no real support from Republican lawmakers since it was announced in January despite a majority of the population supporting the bill, which provides a third stimulus check and boost for the child tax credit programme. 

The letter reads: "Previous federal relief measures have been essential, but more must be done to put the country on a trajectory for a strong, durable recovery. Congress should act swiftly and on a bipartisan basis to authorize a stimulus and relief package along the lines of the Biden-Harris administration’s proposed American Rescue Plan."

Stimulus checks could provide much-needed boost in consumer spending

High-end department store Macy's have announced their 2021 forecast and they appear hopeful of an increase in spending as consumers gradually return to bricks and mortar store. Their optimism is boosted by the news that the third stimulus check worth $1,400 may be passed by the House in the coming days. 

Research has shown that stimulus checks do have a positive impact on consumer spending, and there was a notable uptick after the $600 direct payment was distributed in Janaury. Industry experts Opportunity Insights found that consumer spending increased by 20% the week after the stimulus checks were sent out, when compared to the previous year's figures. 

New stimulus checks will be on their way soon

There is hope that the third round of stimulus check payments could be on their way in md-March as the House prepares to vote on President Biden's American Rescue Plan this Friday. The $1.9 trillion package includes a $1,400 direct payment for eligible Americans. 

The stimulus checks are likely to be available to more people than previous rounds after the eligibility requirements were opened up to include adult dependents for the first time. Here's everything you need to know about who can get the $1,400 stimulus checks, and when they are coming. 

Read more:

California stimulus checks signed into law by Gov. Newsom

Around 5.7 million California residents will be eligible for a $600 direct payment from the state after Gov Gavin Newsom signed the Golden State Stimulus bill into law. The package includes $9.6 bilion of state funding and will provide short-term support for individuals and businesses who have been hit by the pandemic. 

Aside from the $600 stimulus check payment, the bill also includes targeted support for businesses in the hospitality sector who have been devastated by the pandemic's restrictions. A freeze on license fees for bars and restaurants and tax breaks for small businesses are included in the bill. 

Congress should "act big" on new stimulus bill

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has echoed calls from Jerome Powell, Chair of the Federal Reserve, who favours a large stimulus bill of the kind that the Democrats are attempting to pass. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan has been criticised by Republican lawmakers for being too expensive, but studies have shown that a majority of the population support the bill. 

The package is expected to be voted on in the House on Friday, before it passes to the Senate next week. Democrats are eager to get it signed into law swiftly so the third stimulus checks can be distributed in early March. The $1,400 direct payment is certain to be included in the package but we still don't know for sure when it's coming. 

Stimulus relief bill: urban vs rural analysis

The $1.9 trillion covid-19 relief package now making its way through the US Congress would provide $350 billion to help pandemic-hit state and local governments balance their budgets, more than twice the amount lawmakers approved last year.

But not every state comes out ahead: urban, Democratic-led states like Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts that took drastic steps to stop the coronavirus’ spread would get about three times as much money per person as they did in the package passed at the beginning of the health crisis in March.

Rural, Republican-led states including Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota that did less would see less cash.

Reuters dives into the differences you may find depending on where you live.

'Stimulus relief is the popular choice'

Well, that is the view of the representive for California's 28th Congressional District and the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff.

In his tweet, amid the calls against the latest proposal, he highlights direct checks to families, unemployment assistance, money to reopen schools, vaccine funding, food aid, $15 minimum wage, child care funding, rental assistance and eviction moratorium.

The Dems are confident, given the current make-up of the chambers, that this bill will pass soon.

Rubio rebels against Biden's stimulus plan

The US Senator for Florida, Marco Rubio, is unsurprisingly continnuing his cristicism of the American Rescue Plan.

'The Democrats bill drives up the debt without focusing on the pandemic,' Rubio tweeted.

'It’s a $1.9 trillion liberal wishlist of things that have nothing to do with Covid'

As some of the responses to the tweet point out - as well as politcal arguments we've already reported on - there is a strong argument against what he says.

Stimulus relief bill is animating some

Larry Summers, Janet Yellen and others included in this quirky cartoon summary on the debate.

WS

Stimulus talk positivity dips dollar

The growing likelihood that Congress will pass President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus plan has stoked fears about a possible spike in inflation. As those expectations have risen, so has the popularity of the so-called reflation trade, which this month has pulled the dollar lower.

But in testimony before the US Senate Banking Committee, Powell said the central bank would keep its policies in place as it focused attention on getting Americans back to work.

"The economy is a long way from our employment and inflation goals, and it is likely to take some time for substantial further progress to be achieved," said Powell.

Powell in 2020 said the central bank would be willing to allow inflation to run higher than its target rate for periods of time in order to average 2%.

While Powell did not allay the inflation fears, the central bank's overall support for the economy may have kept the dollar afloat on Tuesday.

"For the dollar, the jury remains out with regards to which direction the next major move will be, though for now, inflation concerns may be offset by hopes for a quicker US economic recovery, as vaccine distribution is expected to ramp up in the coming weeks," said Ronald Simpson, managing director, global currency analysis for Action Economics.

Non-expiry: is this the best stimulus idea for Democrats?

Congress has been flapping around with economic aid such as unemployment insurance since the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic. Federal lawmakers have been picking arbitrary end dates for much-needed support, more or less guessing at the end of the pandemic for nearly a year.

And it appears that in the latest relief package, set to pass Congress in the coming weeks, they’re about to make the same mistake again: Instead of phasing out benefits when the economy gets better, Congress is setting up yet another cliff later this year.

Congress has made important changes to the unemployment system to respond to the pandemic: Initially, it added $600 in federal weekly unemployment benefits through the end of July 2020; that dried up for a while but was reinstated at the end of December, this time adding $300 a week through 14 March.

The federal government has also expanded unemployment to gig workers, contractors, freelancers, and others who are generally ineligible for such benefits, and has added on extra weeks once regular benefits expire.

Emily Stewart looks at another idea on the table...

Pelosi-McConnell stimulus spat

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was quick to respond on the back of Christal Hayes' report regarding Mitch McConnell's belief.

He was said to be arguing that most Republicans think the $1.9tr relief bill is too expensive, to which Pelosi points to the majority of American citizens who would take a different view.

This is a common debate over whether politicians are in a position of power to represent their party and lobbyists, or all the people of the country.

AOC responds to GOP minimum wage counter

As House Democrats are pushing forward with their stimulus bill which includes raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025, alternatives are being presented from both side of the aisle.

GOP Senators Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton presented a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10 per hour ove the next five years. At the same time it would ensure businesses cannot hire undocumented people living in the US.

From the other side of the aisle, Senator Joe Manchin is preparing an amendment to the covid-19 relief bill that would see the minimum wage raised by just a dollar more than his Republican colleagues.

Stimulus bill size defended: Valerie Jarrett

The most controversial part of the $1.9 trillion covid-19 relief bill working its way through Congress is the provision to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. Valerie Jarrett, an member of former President Obama’s administration, argues that it raising the minimum wage would be good for the American economy.  

The current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour has no changed since 2009. A person who works full-time all 52 weeks of the year earns just over $15,000, a little more than the US poverty rate. Jarret argues that these people can’t help the US economy with their wages because they are just too low. By raising the minimum wage people would go out and spend money that they can’t right now, helping to support and grow the US economy. 

At the same time millions of Americans could be pulled out of poverty and hunger, in addition to creating more stability for families struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

Some Democrats oppose stimulus package as is

The House is expected to pass its first major piece of legislation since President Biden took office in January by the end of the week: the American Rescue Plan.

However, the legislation includes a provision to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025. This was a key part of Democrats’ 2020 platform but also one that is sowing division among Democrats.

There are currently three Senators that have come out against the measure.

Biden stimulus silence upsets Republicans

Since meeting with 10 Republican senators regarding the breadth and scope of a new covid-19 relief bill there has been little negotiation between Democrats and Republicans. The Republican proposal fell far short of what Biden feels needs to be done to meet the moment. One of the non-starters in the GOP proposal was the exclusion of $350 billion in funding for state and local governments.  

The GOP sight that some states are actually experiencing surpluses at the moment. However many state and local governments of both parties support the funding to keep frontline workers on the payroll and to tackle difficulties presented by the covid-19 in their communities.  

The Democrats plan to push forward with their bill along party lines and pass the $1.9 trillion package quickly. Democrats want to get the bill to Biden’s desk before 14 March when pandemic unemployment benefits are set to expire.

GOP counter for minimum wage rise

US Senators Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton today announced plans to introduce the Higher Wages for American Workers Act, a counter-proposal to the Democrats’ push for a $15 per hour minimum wage increase by 2025.

The Romney-Cotton legislation would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $10 over the next five years from the current $7.25 per hour. After that future minimum wage increases would be indexed to inflation every two years.  

Another proposal is being pushed by moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who is working on an amendment to the relief bill that would limit the minimum-wage increase to $11. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on their version of the $1.9 trillion bill by the end of this week which currently has a provision for raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

Following that it will be the Senate’s turn to have a go at the bill to make amendments.

Wisconsin to upgrade unemployment systems 

Across the US unemployment agencies in the states faced historic increases in claims because of the coronavirus pandemic and many states IT systems couldn’t handle the deluge. The result was delays in getting benefits to tens of thousands of unemployed lasting weeks or even months as the systems had to be reprogrammed to process the new pandemic unemployment programs put into place. Some states implemented upgrades using money from the CARES Act in the spring, but others are still catching up.  

Wisconsin’s bill will allow the state Department of Workforce Development to find outside contractors that can upgrade the state’s long-neglected computer systems to the tune of $80-plus million. It would briefly suspend a requirement that the unemployed wait a week before qualifying for unemployment until March 13. If the bill is signed those who lost their jobs in recent weeks will be able to retroactively claim benefits for the first week they were out of work.

Stimulus and economy focus for Powell

Tuesday saw Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell begin two days of congressional testimony to answer questions on the state of the US economy and what effect the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill will have on it. While Republicans have been stressing the possibility of it sending inflation soaring, Democrats want to focus on the economic inequality among Americans that has been worsened by the pandemic. 

Although the official unemployment rate for January was 6.3 percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Powell estimates that the real unemployment rate is likely closer to 10 percent due to a decrease in labor force participation.

Stay united on stimulus bill, says Schumer

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer warned Senate Democrats that failure to pass a $1.9 trillion covid-19 relief bill would be a political disaster. Schumer has to contend with at least three centrist Senators in the Democratic caucus that have expressed reservations about the size of the package, they are Jon Tester, Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin.  

“I made a pitch today to our entire caucus and I said that we need to pass this bill. The American people, the American public demands it and everyone is going to have things that they want to see in the bill and we’ll work hard to see if we can get those things in the bill,” Schumer told reporters after his call with the Senate Democratic caucus Tuesday.

Pass stimulus bill then turn attention on infrastructure 

Even though House Democrats’ haven’t passed the covid-19 bill yet, which includes extending unemployment benefits and $1,400 stimulus checks, committees in the Senate have been instructed to start work on the next Biden administration initiative. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer told reporters after a Democratic caucus call that committee chairs will start drafting legislation to "out-compete China," including investments in tech and infrastructure. 

Democrats are looking at spending $3 trillion on the infrastructure package which they plan to pass through reconciliation, although Schumer pledged that the bill would be bipartisan.

McConnell says stimulus package is "dramatically more money than is required"

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has branded President Joe Biden’s $1.9tn coronavirus relief bill as "dramatically more money than is required", as Democrats pursue their bid to push through the aid package - which includes a third round of stimulus checks - without Republican backing.

"The Democrats continue to try to move ahead with a partisan covid package," McConnell told reporters on Tuesday. "You know the history, but it’s worth recounting, that every covid package we passed last year, we did on a bipartisan basis. There was almost no opposition to most of those bills, and I was hoping the new administration, particularly given the president discussed so frequently being a moderate, would choose to take a different path.

"Particularly when you look at the numbers: a 50-50 Senate, a narrow majority in the House… I would think looking at that, your conclusion would be: maybe we ought to start on a bipartisan basis. But alas that is not the case.

"As you know, 10 of our member actually went down [to the White House] and met with the president and talked about a more narrow, targeted approach. The message was that they were not interested in doing it that way. They’re going to try to muscle this through on a totally partisan basis.

"And I think I can safely speak for most of my members that we think this is dramatically more money than is required at this particular juncture. It also includes a number of things that have absolutely nothing to do with covid relief. And so it will be controversial."

California stimulus checks: eligibility

Aside from the stimulus checks, billions of dollars have been designated for grants for small businesses and to provide emergency accomodation for the state’s many farmworkers who are forced to quarantine after testing positive for the coronavirus.

“Those that have been left behind in the federal stimulus, California is not going to leave you behind,” Newsom said on Tuesday.

California stimulus checks approved

The big news on Tuesday in California was that Governor Gavin Newsom signed into lawa a coronavirus relief bill that includes stimulus checks for qualifying Californians.

Watch him deliver the news...

US stimulus relief bill: welcome

Hello and welcome to our live blog for Wednesday 24 February on stimulus checks, California state stimulus, IRS tax filing season and more.

We'll be here all day bringing you the latest updates as they unfold in the US. Who's eligible for what, when to expect checks and help with how to file your tax returns.

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