Fourth stimulus check news summary: Friday 3 December

AS USA

COMMENT

Headlines

- Government shutdown averted with passage Thursday of stopgap bill. Next deadline 18 Feb.

-  If there had been a government shutdown? What services would have been impacted?

- What are the average SNAP benefits in each state?

- Calls for a fourth stimulus check before the holidays increases, as prices surge.

- Residents in certain states could receive a fourth stimulus check.

- Social security local offices will remain closed.

- 5.9 percent COLA increase will mean larger checks, but how much will benefits actually increase?

Useful information & links

Child Tax Credit

Final payment of 2021 will be sent on 15 December.

Stimulus checks

- Senior Citizens League pushes for a $1,400 stimulus check for those on social security.

- Maine offers $285 surprise stimulus check to half a million residents.

Social Security

- How many social securitypayments remain for 2021?

- What is the maximum social security benefit for 2022?

Latest articles:

Stimulus Checks

How much were the first, second and third stimulus checks and when were they sent out?

There have been three federal stimulus in the US during the covid-19 pandemic, with two coming under the Trump administration and the third arriving after President Biden took office.

We take a look back at the direct payments

White House to concentrate on Build Back Better

President Biden is still looking to build support in the Senate for the huge Build Back Better legislative proposals which he's attempting to pass before Christmas, and which would help reshape American society with great social safety net spending and a green transformation of certain struggling industries. 

Also included in the package is an expansion of Medicare and legislation allowing providers to negotiate drugs costs with manufacturers. The bill will also extend the expanded Child Tax Credit programme for another year. 

Democrats desperate to secure Medicare expansion

Now that a government shutdown has been avoided, it is no exaggeration to say that the passage of President Biden's Build Back Better package is the main priority for the White House. The President had hoped to pass the remainder of the ambitious legislative package before Christmas but the remaining few undecided Democrats are taking some convincing. 

Last month, when the bill passed the House of Representatives, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters: “This bill will speak for itself to millions and millions and millions and millions of Americans whose lives will be made more secure and richer in terms of their quality of life, whose educational opportunities will be greater, and whose job opportunities will be greatly enhanced."

Gov. Murphy helps expand Child Tax Credit eligibility

Since it was first introduced in July there has been concern that some families were being excluded from the Child Tax Credit direct payments because they had not applied for the support. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has looked to expanded it in his state permanently, by significantly raising the income threshold for recipients. 

“The covid-19 pandemic led many working parents - and working mothers in particular - to leave the workforce due to childcare challenges,” Governor Murphy wrote in a statement. “This legislation will help ensure affordable access to childcare, a critical part of getting hardworking New Jerseyans back into the workforce and reversing the ‘she-cession’ caused by the pandemic.”

Child Tax Credit is vital as prices continue to rise

In recent months the US economy has been hit by a prolonged spell of high inflation as retailers struggle to satisfy the huge demand being placed on it. The combination of millions returning to the workplace and global supply chain issues have meant that demand is currently outstripping supply, causing prices to rise in a number of key areas. 

As such, advocacy groups like Fight For 15 are pointing out the importance of securing the Child Tax Credit monthly payments for another year. The direct payments have been operating since July and have already been linked to a 24% fall in food insecurity amongst recipients. 

CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS CHECKS

Can a fourth stimulus check payment happen in December 2021?

In October nearly 30% of American adults were still having trouble paying their usual household expenses. With prices up across the economy and the holiday season approaching, many are hoping Congress will pass another round of direct payments in December.

But with efforts in Congress focused on the passage of President Biden's Build Back Better bill, will there be a chance to discuss other forms of financial stimulus?

Read more

Sanders sticks to Medicare demands

Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders has played a key role in attempting to build support in the Senate for President Biden's Build Back Better bill and has pushed for greater spending for Medicare and the ability to negotiate drugs prices with manufacturers. As such, Sanders is refusing to accept proposed premium increases that could cost 57 million senior citizens. 

Psaki criticises GOP inaction on Build Back Better

The passage of the remainder of the Build Back Better agenda remains one of the top priorities for President Biden and one that he would desperately like to achieve before Christmas. Since taking office he has followed a more ambitious legislative pathway than many had expected but he has struggled to find Republican support for the proposals. The bill includes a Child Tax Credit extension, greater funding for Medicare and a whole host of other popoular programmes. 

Child Tax Credit: New study suggest 43% drop in food insecurity

The final monthly payment from the Child Tax Credit is set to go out from 15 December and the pressure is on the Democrats to secure an extension to the popular programme before it expires at the end of the year. The monthly payments have been linked to substantial decreases in food insecurity amongst recipients but Biden has failed to secure any Senate votes from Republicans to push the package through. 

Next round of Golden State stimulus checks goes out to recipients

Later this months the next round of payments from the California Franchise Tax Board (CFTB) will be distributed to an estimated 800,000 Californians who are yet to receive their stimulus check. Earlier this year Gov. Gavin Newsom agreed to use the state's massive budget surplus from 2020 to pay for a huge stimulus bill aimed at boosting the state's struggling hospitality and tourism sectors. 

Families see the benefits of Child Tax Credit payments

On 15 December the IRS will send out the sixth round of direct payemnts from the Child Tax Credit to eligible parents, and it could be the last unless an extension is agree. The first five rounds of direct payments were linked to a 24% drop in food insecurity amongst recipients but the monthly payment strucutre will end after this month. 

President Biden had hoped to extend it further and a one-year extension is included in the Build Back Better bill currently being discussed in Congress. However he needs to convince moderate Democrats in the Senate to vote for the bill before it can be passed. 

Social Security

How can I contact OPM retirement services? What is their phone number?

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is a wing of the US government that controls the civilian service. The agency coordinates healthcare, life insurance and retirement benefits for federal government employees, retirees and their dependents.

The OPM has a multitude of ways it can be contacted if you are having problems.

Read more.

Food insecurity falls due to Child Tax Credit

Data suggests the Child Tax Credit has cut child poverty and child hunger substantially, although the impact would be greater if all eligible families were receiving the payments and if they were extended for more years.

There is “consistent and broad evidence that this policy is working as intended,” said Zach Parolin, who has studied the program at Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy. “There’s some strong evidence from the past that these types of income boosts will be beneficial for students at increasing their learning potential.”

The Build Back Better plan had proposed extending it to 2025, but it looks like it will only be until the end of 2022.

Student loan repayments to begin again in new year

"This simultaneous restart of 32 million borrowers' loans, half of whom will also be transferring to a new loan servicer, marks an unprecedented event with a heightened risk of borrower harm," reads a letter to the heads of those servicers signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Chris Van Hollen, Richard Blumenthal and Tina Smith.

Progressive Democrats argue the loans should be cancelled, as the interest rate and payment structure puts thousands at risk of serious financial problems.

Social Security

Social Security COLA 2022: how much is the increase on benefits?

In October the Social Security Administration announced a historic cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) of 5.9 percent that will be applied to benefits for 2022. The increase makes history as the highest offered to seniors in over forty years and is mostly a result of higher than normal inflation brought on by multiple factors resulting from the covid-19 pandemic.

The annual boost to monthly payments will help go some way toward keeping seniors and disabled recipients from losing purchasing power. However, much of this increase is likely to be offset by similar rises in costs of goods and Medicare.

So when you can expect the increase and how much you could receive?

Read more.

Will the Child Tax Credit be extended?

Should the reconciliation bill be passed, the Child Tax Credit with its current eligibility requirements would be extended one more year. Under the American Rescue Plan, changes to the structure of the credit were made, which expanded eligibility to more than twenty-four million children.

Initially, some Democrats tried to include funding to extend the Child Tax Credit for five years, but more conservative party members rejected this proposal.

However, all this is meaningless if the second part of the Build Back Better plan is not passed in time. It is currently in the Senate.

CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS CHECKS

Can a fourth stimulus check payment happen in December 2021?

After the third stimulus check was distributed earlier this year, personal income rose to $24.1 billion. However since then that figure has trended downward, falling to $20.4 billion by September.

One of the main factors driving the decrease was the ending of federal pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs. As unemployment benefits ended more than eight million workers in the United States quit their jobs, providing new evidence that the benefits were not keeping people from re-entering the workforce.

In October nearly 30% of American adults were still having trouble paying their usual household expenses. With prices up across the economy and the holiday season approaching, many are hoping Congress will pass another round of direct payments in December.

Read more.

 Democratic congressman Tim Ryan showed his exasperation with his Republican colleagues threatening a shutdown.

Taking to the floor during debate on the appropriation proposal, Ryan explained that the spending is about reinvesting in the US’ greatest weapon for winner the competition with China; a strong American middle class. 

“We see all these cargo ships out in California. They’re not coming from Kansas. They’re coming from China. If we don’t reinvest and bring those supply chains back here we’re going to continue to lose,” Ryan said.

“[This bill is] not about tyranny. It’s not about some communist indoctrination. It’s about rebuilding the United States and kicking China’s rear end,” Ryan finished.

Already the rhetoric from lawmakers echoes that of the Cold War with the Soviet Union, and the US may have a new enemy in its sights.

Breakdown of how much each state has to get cleaner water

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates that across the US there between 9.7 million and 12.8 million pipes that are, or may be, lead. Replacing these pipes, which can cause long term health effects, is one of the stated goals of the funding for clean water included in the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Can you change your Social Security number for any reason?

Social Security numbers are an omnipresent part of life and meant to be unique to each holder and be kept for life. There are times though that a person may want to change the number assigned to them by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The process is not easy and will require that an individual provide proof that the change is necessary due to the problems their original number is causing them or the harm that may come to them if a change isn’t made.

Read more.

Government shutdown averted until 18 February

The stopgap spending bill that will keep the federal government going for another couple of months passed the Senate. A group of Republican senators had threatened to force a shutdown that would have lasted through the weekend.

However, to get their compliance to let the bill go through more quickly, an amendment was raised to defund the federal vaccine mandate for government employees and companies with over 100 employees. The amendment failed as Republicans can only muster 50 votes at most from their side of the aisle. 

The final vote was 69 in favor and only 28 GOP senators voting against the stopgap bill that will fund the government through 18 February.

IRS offer tips as part on 'online security' week

The Internal Revenue Service continue to offer customers tips and ideas on ways of being more secure online reminding clients that children should be aware of pop-ups and web ads when using their parents devices.

Good morning and welcome to the AS USA coverage for December 3. We will be taking a look at the ongoing Congressional wrangling over the fate of President Biden's Build Back Better bill.

We will also bring you all the latest updates on the debt ceiling, attempts to send a fourth stimulus check and extend the child tax credit, Medicare open enrollment, and the COLA increase to social security.

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