Stimulus checks will go to fewer Americans under Biden agreement on COVID relief deal

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Summer Lin, Bailey Aldridge
·3 min read
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President Joe Biden agreed Wednesday to a plan that would reduce the income eligibility cap for stimulus checks in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill.

The Senate’s version of the legislation would send reduced payments to people earning more than $75,000 and $150,000 for joint filers, and cap the payments at earnings of $80,000 and $160,000, respectively, The Associated Press reported.

Under the House’s bill, payments would’ve been gradually phased out and cut off for individuals making $100,000 and couples making $200,000.

Biden remained firm on the $400 weekly unemployment benefits under the House legislation after some moderates wanted the payments reduced to $300 per week, according to the publication.

The Senate is expected to take a first procedural vote on the bill on Wednesday, followed by up to 20 hours of debate, according to CNBC. The Senate will then kick off a marathon of voting before approving the legislation.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, said he expects the plan to be approved by the Senate on Friday or Saturday, the publication reported. The House is set to reconvene on Monday to pass the Senate version of the bill and Democrats are aiming to send the bill to Biden’s desk by the end of next week.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill mostly along party lines, 219-212, on Saturday. The package is being considered in the U.S. Senate, where Democrats are expected to use the reconciliation process — which allows for “expedited consideration” of legislation on spending, taxes and debt and only requires a simple majority instead of 60 votes for passage — to advance the bill.

Democrats are hoping to pass the stimulus deal into law before Mar. 14, the day that $300 weekly unemployment benefits approved in December’s coronavirus package expire.

Democrats also have a narrow 50-50 majority in the Senate, with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tie breaker, meaning the deal will require backing from the entire Democratic caucus if no Republicans vote for the legislation as expected, The Hill reported.

Negotiations on $1,400 checks and jobless aid

The changes in the Senate bill come after Biden spoke with Democrats on Monday about targeting the income eligibility for the $1,400 direct stimulus payments, The Washington Post reported.

Some Democratic senators, however, have urged Biden to support recurring direct payments to lower-income Americans during the pandemic, McClatchy previously reported.

“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,” a group of 10 senators said to Biden in a letter obtained by McClatchy. “Families should not be at the mercy of constantly-shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions.”

Some Republicans have balked at the cost of the package and called for more “targeted” relief for families during the pandemic by lowering the income threshold requirements for direct payments. A group of 10 Republican senators released a counteroffer last month that would provide $1,000 stimulus checks for individuals making up to $40,000 a year and phase them out completely when income reaches $50,000.

Senators have also debated reverting the jobless benefits included in the House version of the bill, which boosted federal payments from $300 to $400.

Sen. Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, said he supports reducing the proposed boost back to $300, according to The Associated Press.

Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine, called for linking unemployment benefits to state and local unemployment rates, meaning the benefits would decrease as the local economy improves, The Washington Post reported.