Fourth US stimulus check summary: 9 September 2021

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Fourth stimulus check live updates: new payment in California, unemployment benefits, Child Tax Credit...

US stimulus news | 9 September 2021

New petition calling for targeted fourth stimulus check 

The Senior Citizens League is calling for a $1,400 stimulus payment to those receiving Social Security. Citing a recent survey, which found a vast majority of Social Security recipients have seen inflation far outstrip the index adjusted increase to benefits this year, the payment is needed to alleviate the toll rising prices are taking on households.

GOP lawmakers urge Department of Education not to forgive student loans 

Four Republican members of the House warned Education Secretary Miguel Cardona that it is not in the Department’s authority granted by Congress to issue a blanket cancellation of student debt. This came after the recent appointment of Toby Merrill to serve as Deputy General Counsel at the Department of Education who has argued that the Department of Education was given the authority by Congress. President Biden has said that he doesn’t think he has the authority but asked the Department of Education to conduct a legal review on the issue which Merrill would have a say in.

Not enough skilled workers to meet demand 

Besides threats from Progressives in the House to sink the infrastructure bill passed by the Senate if the rest of Biden’s agenda isn’t passed as part of a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, the Infrastructure bill could face a even greater challenge, a lack of workers. As current workers retire and not enough young replacements enter the sector, it is estimated that the US could face a shortage of some 2 million skilled construction workers through 2025. In addition to a shortage of construction workers, transit agencies are experiencing similar difficulties finding able bodies to fill positions that will increase with the projects to expand service and upgrade infrastructure.

What options do student loan borrowers have? 

The moratorium put in place in Marh 2020 freezing interest on student loans and not requiring borrowers to make their monthly payments will be coming to an end in five months. The Department of Education announced that the holiday on payments and interest will not be extended beyond the end of January 2022.

Borrowers that haven’t be able to make payments in that time and are still struggling in the aftermath of the economic crisis brought on by the covid-19 pandemic will need to start making plans for that eventuality. One possible option is declaring bankruptcy but that can have long-term consequences. Find out more

The bipartisan infrastructure bill is incomplete without reconciliation. We can’t just invest in traditional infrastructure without also having mitigating climate provisions for things like electric vehicles and renewable energy. Kicking the can down the road won’t save us money.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D), California 17th Congressional District

CALIFORNIA RECALL ELECTION

How does the California recall election affect the rest of the United States?

The fate of Gov. Gavin Newsom will be decided next week, but the outcome of the gubernatorial election could also have consequences for the rest of the nation.

Full details:

Child Tax Credit tool in fight against addiction 

The US had the highest level of overdose deaths in 2020, more than 93,000 Americans died. Addiction can happen to anyone but takes root when people are young and especially for children that grow up in a stressful environment produced by parental substance abuse and financial hardship.  

The monthly payments can help provide stability for struggling families which in turn can help avert further substance abuse. By providing children with the support now it could pay off dividends with future generations seeing a reduction in addiction and the costs associated with it for all.

What impact has the Child Tax Credit had so far?

Before the expanded Child Tax Credit went live in July, the White House was bullish about the impact that the new programme could have on American families. They anticipated that, over the course of a year, the monthly payents could cut the number of children in poverty in half. 

We haven't quite seen those numbers yet but the early figures are positive, with around 3.3 million children lifted out of poverty from the first round of payments alone. The Democrats are eager to see it extended beyond next year and promising signs like this will only strengthen their resolve. 

Unemployment Benefits

What are Democrats saying about the expiration of the pandemic relief plans?

The additional pandemic unemployment programmes were allowed to expire last weekend after offering support for jobless Americans throughout the pandemic. The issue split the Democrats: some of whom felt it was time to return to normality; and some who believe that it was reckless to remove the support while the US economy is still recovering. 

The 96-strong progressive caucus in Congress is split on whether to push for an extension of the unemployment benefits in the $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package. Because, with an extremely narrow majorities in Congress and the House, deviation from the mainline Democrat course could imperil the rest of Biden's Build Back Better legislative agenda. 

Read more

Golden State stimulus checks for two-thirds of California residents

After recording a record $75 billion budget surplus for 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom passed the California Comeback Plan to provide added impetus to the state's economic recovery. The headline inclusion in the package was a round of $600 stimulus checks which will go to two-thirds of Californians, including some groups who have not previously been eligible for the payments. 

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Why didn't I get the extra $300 unemployment payment on my pay check?

Last weekend millions of out-of-work Americans lost access to the federal unemployment benefits boost that had been in place since March 2020 after President Joe Biden refused to extend them beyond the 6 September expiration date. Numerous states had decided to withdraw from the support prematurely, but the Labor Day deadline affected over 11 million people, with roughly 7.5 million losing all their unemployment benefits. 

However as the covid-19 case numbers continue to rise and after the underwhelming August jobs report, is there any chance that Biden may look to reinstate the programmes in the near future?

Read more

Fraudsters target IRS stimulus checks

The vast majority of the third round of stimulus checks was distributed to eligible Americans in the spring, but as the IRS continue to process outstanding tax returns more payments are being sent out. This process will continue for the remainder of 2021 and the IRS are reporting that scammers are increasingly targetting the stimulus check payments. 

“The number of reported scam attempts reached levels we haven’t seen in more than a decade,” said Jim Lee, Chief of IRS Criminal Investigation. "More than ever, it is important for taxpayers to continue to protect their personal information and not fall victim to these scams.”

"My Build Back Better agenda, which still needs to be voted on in the Congress, keeps [the Child Tax Credit] in place for years to come.  We shouldn’t let taxes go up on working families.  We shouldn’t let child poverty continue to stain the conscience or drag down our economy. 

"And so, I say to my colleagues in Congress: This tax cut for working families is something we should extend, not end, next year."

President Joe Biden, White House statement

CHILD TAX CREDIT

How has the Child Tax Credit impacted household income in the US?

The American Rescue Plan introduced a complete overhaul of the Child Tax Credit, designed to provide additional support for families as they struggle through the economic fallout of the pandemic. The expanded programme is currently funded for just one year but there are hopes that it will be extended further.

That effort will be aided by early evidence which suggests the programme is having a positive effect on American society. In July, the first month of the new Child Tax Credit, the payments were linked to an increase in household income and fall in childhood poverty. 

Read more

Calls continue for a fourth stimulus check

The next round of Child Tax Credit monthly payments is set to go out on 15 September but many feel that additional direct support is needed to provide new impetus to the US' economic recovery. An online petition calling for $2,000 recurring monthly checks has now garnered more than 2.87 million signatures. 

It seems unlikely that Congress will pass a fourth stimulus check in the near future but a number of states are using federal relief funds to provide an additional round of payments for certain groups, like educators. The states taken part in these programmes are: Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado, Texas and California.

FOURTH STIMULUS CHECK

Which states have new stimulus payments in September?

Democrats in Congress have a little over a month to hammer out the details of their $3.5 trillion reconciliation budget plan which they plan to push through with a party-line vote, but no stimulus checks are included in the lucrative proposal. 

But although the White House is unwilling to push for another round of direct payments at the moment, residents in a select group of states could soon be receiving a fourth stimulus check from local authorities. Which states are offering the bonus payments, and how much will they be worth?

Read more

Senior citizens could receive 'stimulus check' boost

The prospect of a universal fourth stimulus check seems a long way off but there are suggestions that the same process could be used to get funds out to certain groups. Senate Democrats considering sending vouchers worth hundreds of dollars to seniors, to be put towards hearing, vision and dental services. It is hoped that this would be quicker than attempting to pass and implement a new benefits programme. 

Larry Levitt, executive vice president at nonpartisan group the Kaiser Family Foundation, exlpains: “These new benefits are complicated and take time to implement, and there's enormous political pressure to get help to people quickly, especially with the midterm elections coming up."

Will Congress extend the Child Tax Credit?

The expanded Child Tax Credit has been praised as a landmark change to the US' social care safety net and has already achieved promising early results. The first month of payments alone has been linked to a 25% drop in childhood poverty, which draws around 3.3 million children above the poverty line. 

Democrats in Congress are eager to see it extended beyond it's initial one-year duration. House Majority Whip, Rep. James Clyburn, gives his thoughts on the Child Tax Credit and will be eager to see his caucus vote for an extension. 

GOLDEN STATE STIMULUS CHECKS

Where is the second $600 Golden State stimulus check? How can I track its status?

On 13 July, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law that will allow for the sending of the second round of direct payments. Those who received a check during the first round are not eligible for a second. However, taxpayers in the care of children who meet the income requirements will receive an additional $500 payment.

The California Franchise Tax Board (CFTB), which is responsible for distributing the checks, has updated its website to provide support to those hoping to track their payment. The CFTB can be contacted through three main methods for any taxes or Golden State stimulus checks; phone, mail or online chat.

Read more here

Firm "NO" from AOC if infrastructure bill and budget plan are split

"Nothing would give me more pleasure than to tank a billionaire, dark money, fossil fuel, Exxon lobbyist-drafted 'energy' infrastructure bill if they come after our child care and climate priorities." she says in an Instagram live video.

The Democrat hierarchy is torn about whether to pursue the agendas separately or bundle them all together. Negotiations are to be thrashed out in the next three weeks, when the bills must be tabled in the House.

Fall in jobless claims as extra benefits end

According to data released Thursday by the Labor Department, inthe week ending September 4, seasonally adjusted initial claims for unemployment insurance totaled 310,000, falling by 35,000 to the lowest level since March 14, 2020. Claims are now less than 100,000 above the 225,500 total seen in the final week before covid-19 upended the global economy.

Despite this, new employments have fallen to their lowest level since January, with just 235,000 new jobs created in August, well below the projected 750,000.

Jobs Report

Why are businesses struggling to hire even though unemployment is high?

Despite a forecast of 750,000 new jobs, the US economy could barely muster just over a third of that, 235,000. It's the lowest total since January, and could increase fears of a general economic slowdown as the country heads towards winter. It would be wrong to suggest that this is because of a lack of jobs. On the contrary, the US has its highest number of available jobs in history, in figures reported on Wednesday. In July, it had more than 10.7 million available jobs.

These two figures should not be in this position, so many jobs shouldn't be available with so few taking them up. It begs questions, and should come as no surprise that the pandemic plays such a big role in this disparity. Other factors include new worker demands and circumstances, as well as the end of the extra unemployment benefits, which may just force people to take unsafe labor.

Read more here

Child Tax Credit extension would drastically reduce child poverty

A new study by Urban Institute researchers Greg Acs and Kevin Werner shows that the expanded CTC, that is to the end of 2025, would reduce child poverty from 14.2% to 8.4% nationally, a reduction of over 40 percent.

Joe Biden is pushing for the plan to be extended beyond its initial end at the end of the 2021 tax year.

FOURTH STIMULUS CHECK

Which states have new stimulus payments in September?

Although a fourth stimulus check won't be happening this month, some states will be sending certain residents a little extra money in September.

As well those who had not filed a tax return in the past two years due to low earnings but filed this year are seeing their stimulus payments as the IRS processes returns. The tax agency has been working through a backlog caused by the pandemic made worse by a decade of budget and staff cuts.

The California Franchise Tax Board began sending the first payments on a tax refund enacted as part of the $100 billion Comeback Plan. The first Golden State Stimulus payments went out 27 August to some 600,000 residents. However, the state tax board has around 9 million payments to send out which it says “will be issued between September 1, 2021 and October 15, 2021.”

Other states and localities are choosing to reward their frontline workers with $1,000 bonus checks or hazard pay to say “thank you” for their service.

Read more here

Manchin call to slow down resonates with voters

Polling has been conducted by Axios to determine voter support for the Democrat agenda, for the infrastructure bill and the large $3.5 trillion dollar budget. More than 970 people were polled and support for Manchin's slow down was much more pronounced in Republicans, 78%, compared to Democrats, 48%. In suburban areas, which are crucial to Democrat's hope to retain the House in 2022, the poll found 64% support the pause while 36% oppose it.

Senator Joe Manchin had called for a "strategic pause" to the plans in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last week. President Biden told reporters on Tuesday night at the White House that when it comes to Manchin, "Joe at the end has always been there."

Our committees are working feverishly and diligently and we will be ready to fulfill the president's vision.

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House

We're moving full-speed ahead.

Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader

Crunch time for Democrats

September is a crucial month for the Dems, and failure to pass either of their landmark bills could spell disaster for the party's chances in the midterm elections next year.

More than a dozen House committees are rushing to finish drafting and marking up key sections of the massive package, so they can send them to the Budget Committee by the Sept. 15 deadline set by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Democrats are already facing fierce resistance from powerful business interests, particularly over proposed corporate tax hikes. Complicating their task, Democrats are operating with razor-thin majorities in both chambers, leaving virtually no room for defections.

If they're eliminating fossils, and I'm finding out there's a lot of language in places they're eliminating fossils, which is very, very disturbing, because if you're sticking your head in the sand, and saying that fossil (fuel) has to be eliminated in America, and they want to get rid of it, and thinking that's going to clean up the global climate, it won't clean it up all. If anything, it would be worse.

Joe Manchin, Democrat Congressman told CNN in July

This morning's news is dominated by the budget reconciliation bill

America will be waking up to plenty of stories today, but for domestic politics, it seems none will be bigger over the next weeks than the proposed $3.5 trillion budget plan.

And West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin appears to be determined to hold his party to ransom by demanding key parts of the Democrat agenda be watered down to a skimmed milk consistency.

There are rumors that Manchin's upper limit for spending is barely $1.5 trillion, well under half of the proposed total. He also wants cuts to the child care plans and, most importantly for many, sweeping changes to climate change provisions in the bill. West Virginia is a major coal producing state, and Manchin doesn't want his state affected by green energy plans.

Manchin's involvement is crucial because under the terms of the reconciliation bill, every congressional Democrat must vote yes for the bill to pass.

New record high of more than 10 million available jobs

Data released yesterday showed that there were 10.7 million available jobs in the US, the highest on record. This number, recorded from the end of July, is a bad sign considering the low take up of new jobs in August, just 235,000.

Businesses will be hoping that the end of the extra unemployment support on Labor Day will cause a rush back to the workplace. The end of these benefits was largely due to the swathe of available jobs, but a return to the workplace is not as simple as there being jobs available.

Yellen: US to default on national debt if changes not made

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Wednesday warned congressional leaders that the US is on track to default on the national debt in October if the White House and Congress are unable to raise the debt limit.

It would be the first time in the nation's history that a default on the debt has occurred and would undoubtedly send shockwaves through the economy.

Stiglitz: end of extra unemployment benefits "disturbing"

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winning economist, has rallied against the end of the extra unemployment benefits. Speaking to Democracy Now!, he said they should have continued.

"3/4 of those will see their benefits cut or most of those eliminated... and we aren't back to normal."

"The employment numbers were not good last month... these people who lose their benefits won't be able to spend."

How to sign up for Child Tax Credit monthly payments

The IRS has been criticised in the past for making it too difficult for low-income households to sign up for the new Child Tax Credit. Households not required to file a tax return have to provide their information to the IRS separately, but that process has been made easier by the introduction of the new GetCTC online portal. 

The new resource is available in both English and Spanish and is mobile phone compatible, to make registering for the monthly payments as easy as possible. 

Dems consider Medicare 'stimulus checks'

Calls for a fourth stimulus check appear unlikely to be answered in the near future, but there is the prospect of a financial injection for a group of tens of millions of Americans. Senate Democrats are considering proposing that senior citizens are sent vouchers worth hundreds of dollars, to be put towards the cost of hearing, vision and dental services.

The payments would be a supplement to the various forms of support included in Biden's enormous $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, because it is expected that it will take years for the entirety to be fully implemented. 

These new benefits are complicated and take time to implement, and there's enormous political pressure to get help to people quickly, especially with the midterm elections coming up,” said Larry Levitt, executive vice president at nonpartisan group the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Stimulus checks prevent rise in food insecurity

The economic consequences of the pandemic and associated restrictions were catastrophic for the US economy in 2020. Millions of people lost their jobs almost overnight in spring of last year and the nation's economic growth was the worst since World War II. With that backdrop, many would expect the number of housheolds experiencing food instability to increase but in reality it stayed almost unchanged. 

On Wednesday the USDA released its annual Household Food Security report, which surveys around 35,000 households for Census Bureau data. The study found that food instability remained the same as 2019, and some have pointed to this as a sign that the stimulus checks had the desired effect

Would a fourth stimulus check be a good idea?

After the underwhelming August jobs report there have been calls for President Biden to consider introducing a fourth stimulus check, to provide some extra impetus to the struggling economy. However not everyone is convinced of the benefits of the direct payments, and in the video from Vox a number of leading economists outline why they may not be such a good idea

"The American Rescue Plan temporarily increased the Child Tax Credit provided to eligible American families with children. 

"Because the American Rescue Plan only increased and expanded the Child Tax Credit for 2021, Congress needs to make this expanded tax credit permanent, so families can continue receiving this financial lifeline."

Rep. James Clyburn, Remarks on the Child Tax Credit

How are the Child Tax Credit monthly payments being spent?

Early figures suggest that the expanded Child Tax Credit is already having a significant impact on the lives of millions of American families. After just the first round of payments had been sent the number of American children living in poverty fell by 3.3 million, a reduction of around 25%. 

Data gathered by the Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey shows that one-in-five households spent the money on food, while utilities and clothing were also common expenditures. 

Speaking about the positive new figures Natalie Foster, the co-chair of the Economic Security Project, said: “This reminds us that poverty is a policy choice. We can choose to end poverty if we want to, and it is great to see the Child Tax Credit taking such an important step ending childhood poverty."

Stimulus checks and Child Tax Credit live updates: welcome

Hello and welcome to our live blog on Wednesday 8 September 2021, providing you with the latest updates on a potential fourth stimulus check, and information on the expanded Child Tax Credit, a scheme which so far has seen two monthly payments of up to $300 per child go out to qualifying American households.

We'll also bring you news on other economic-aid measures in the US, such as unemployment benefits and updates on the distribution of California's Golden State Stimulus checks.

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