White House agrees to reduce Americans eligible for checks in next COVID relief bill, reports say
The White House has signed off on a proposal from centrist Democrats in Congress to reduce the number of people receiving the next round of checks, per multiple reports.
According to the Associated Press and Washington Post, the next COVID-19 relief bill will depart from the previous stimulus payments in that individuals who made between $80,000 and $100,000 on their most recent tax filing will no longer be eligible. Previously, those making up to $100,000 would be eligible for at least part of the payment.
The plan would also eliminate payments for couples earning more than $160,000, down from $200,000 in prior bills.
Despite the bill’s popularity in polling, Republicans have maintained a united front against the White House’s $1.9 trillion relief package, and it is expected to garner few if any GOP votes. A version that passed the House last week did so with no Republican support.
Republicans argue that the current legislation spends too much money unrelated to the bill’s stated purpose, and a group of more moderate GOP lawmakers have proposed a smaller $600 billion relief package.
The Democrats’ legislation needs to appease all 50 of their senators in order to pass, and the new restrictions on who can get the relief checks are seen as a compromise with more moderate members of the caucus.
“I think we could drop it below the $200,000 and still get households that really need it,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said earlier this week.
Progressives have argued that targeting payments based on 2019 income tax records could hurt Americans who have lost their jobs since the last filing. A spokesperson for the Senate Finance Committee told Yahoo News that eligibility would depend on the timing of the final vote and each individual’s tax filing, saying, “If you file your taxes by the time a relief bill is passed, the IRS would use your 2020 income — not your 2019 income — when sending relief payments.”
Democrats are hoping to have the bill signed into law by March 14, when expanded unemployment payments are set to expire. According to reports, the White House refused to lower the payments from $400 per week to $300 per week, as requested by moderate lawmakers. The legislation is also expected to include funding for vaccine distribution, schools, and state and local governments.
President Biden has been criticized by some on the left for what they describe as a broken promise on sending out $2,000 relief checks, which Democrats campaigned heavily on in the lead-up to January’s U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia. The White House counters that the $1,400 checks included in its current package come out to $2,000 when that amount is added to the $600 checks passed by the last Congress in December.
With the tighter restrictions, it’s likely that some Americans who received multiple relief checks during the pandemic when President Donald Trump was in office won’t receive anything from the current Democratic package.
A February Yahoo News/YouGov poll found a majority of Americans backed Biden’s proposals, with 74 percent supporting $2,000 checks, compared with just 13 percent who were against that amount. The survey also found that 58 percent supported raising the minimum wage — a provision that has been stripped from the current relief package, to the chagrin of progressives — compared with 31 percent who opposed doing so.
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