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Fourth stimulus check: is a new payment possible in 2021?

The IRS are still working on distributing the $1,400 direct payments, but reports suggest that Biden may push for even more expansive support in future.

The IRS are still working on distributing the $1,400 direct payments, but reports suggest that Biden may push for even more expansive support in future.

On Wednesday the White House confirmed that the Biden administration had hit the President’s target of sending out 100 million stimulus checks within the first ten days of distribution.

An estimated 160 million Americans are expected to receive direct payments worth up to $1,400 each, but many in Congress still believe that the support offered is insufficient considering the damage that the pandemic has done to the economy.

In fact while the Senate was considering the American Rescue Plan in March a group of ten progressive senators, led by Sens Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, called for recurring stimulus checks to be included in future legislation.

The group’s letter read: "We urge you to include recurring direct payments and automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions in your Build Back Better long-term economic plan.”

Biden may seek more ambitious agenda after stimulus bill

Despite facing unanimous opposition from Republicans in Congress, reports suggest that the passage of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill has strengthened President Biden’s resolve to pursue a more progressive economic agenda.

Not a single Republican in the House of Senate voted for the bill but Biden was able to pass the package using reconciliation. According to an Axios report, the President has spoken with advisors about even grander plans, which could well see even more generous stimulus checks introduced in future.

The President has unified control in Congress until 2022, support from both Party activists and the general public, and early evidence suggests that the economy is benefitting from federal spending so far. He may well want to make the most of these favourable conditions.

The report claims that Biden is willing to pass the next stages of a more progressive agenda, potentially including a fourth stimulus check, using the same method of reconciliation that he used for the previous round. However this does mean a delay is inevitable.

Next stimulus checks may have to wait until October at earliest

If Biden is to pass another large-scale economic package, it appears certain that he would need to rely on reconciliation again to do so. Having refused to support the most recent stimulus bill it is hard to see a scenario where at least ten Republican senators would support another one.

But the reconciliation mechanism can only be used once in any one fiscal year, meaning that the Democrats would have to wait until 1 October to use it again. With this in mind, it appears very unlikely that Biden could find enough support in Congress to pass the bill for another six months.

Even if the Democrats had the new stimulus bill written up and ready to go, we would likely see a repeat of the same congressional wrangling that delayed the American Rescue Plan for weeks. As such, at this stage the earliest realistic distribution date for a fourth stimulus check would appear to be late 2021.