Nearly two dozen U.S. senators now want the federal government to send recurring COVID-19 stimulus checks to tens of millions of Americans for the duration of the pandemic.
In a letter led by Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and including Massachusetts Democrats Sen. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, 21 lawmakers on Tuesday pressed President Joe Biden to include monthly payments and automatic extensions to unemployment insurance in his future recovery efforts, which are expected to cost up to $4 trillion.
“A single direct payment will not last long for most families, and we are worried about the cliff facing unemployed workers when the unemployment insurance extensions expire on Sept. 6,” the lawmakers wrote, referencing the $1,400 payments and jobless aid in Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. “This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. Families should not be at the mercy of constantly-shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions.”
When Markey and Sen. Bernie Sanders and then-Sen. Kamala Harris proposed monthly COVID-19 stimulus payments of $2,000 last year, the idea didn’t gain much traction.
Congress and the Trump administration haggled for months over another relief package before finally agreeing on a deal that included $600 checks to most Americans.
Biden’s American Rescue Plan followed up with $1,400 checks to people earning less than $75,000, with some Democrats saying the amount delivered previous promises by progressives for stimulus payments of at least $2,000.
But Markey and dozens of Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate haven’t given up on recurring checks.
Markey told MassLive on Monday that Biden and congressional Democrats had delivered help to Americans, including extended jobless aid, an expanded $3,000-plus Child tax Credit, ramped up vaccination and “much-needed and long overdue relief for millions of people.”
“But continued relief and recovery must go hand-in-hand,” he added. “While Congress is focused on passing a multi-trillion dollar recovery package that will help reignite our economy and get workers back on the job, we will not waver in our fight for recurring monthly payments for working people. Senator Sanders and I have been calling for this necessary relief since the very beginning of the pandemic, and we will not stop fighting until we secure $2,000 monthly payments to help people make it through this crisis.”
Nine Democrats signed a similar letter led by Wyden earlier in March. On Tuesday, the lawmakers cited polling from the progressive nonprofit, Data for Progress, showing 65% of Americans support monthly $2,000 checks.
Still, the lawmakers have a tall order in getting recurring checks to Americans.
Not only do they face opposition from nearly every Republican in Congress, conservative Democrats have balked at some progressive elements of Biden’s stimulus plan and successfully fought to lower the income thresholds for those eligible for the latest round of checks.
Additionally, Biden’s next recovery packages are focused on infrastructure, child care and education, not direct cash.
Biden is set to unveil his infrastructure plans Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which has transformed over the decades from the center of the American steel industry into a hub for clean energy, biotech, banking, health care and other industries.
“These packages will be designed to address long-term economic problems such as infrastructure, climate change and the skewed income and wealth distribution,” Moody’s chief economist Mark Zandi recently told Fortune. “I wouldn’t consider these packages as fiscal stimulus, designed to support the economy in the short-term. I don’t think there will be a fourth round of stimulus checks.”
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