By now, it seems clear that there will not be a fourth stimulus check. The economic recovery is well underway; more than half of all Americans have received at least one vaccine shot, and nearly half have been fully vaccinated; and the economy is projected to grow by roughly 7 percent in 2021, an astonishing growth in a normal year—although less surprising considering the economic contraction in 2020.
The previous three stimulus measures—passed in March 2020, December 2020, and March 2021—were explicitly crafted as “stimulus” measures, designed to artificially increase the circulation of money by placing spending money in Americans’ hands.
The most recent round of checks, administered as part of the American Rescue Plan Act passed in March 2021, allocated $450 billion in federal spending to the stimulus program. So far, roughly 90 percent of the total, or around 167 million checks, have been administered; within the last week alone, nearly 2 million additional recipients have received their $1,400 checks.
In spite of the optimistic forecasts, some Democrats have remained adamant that a fourth round of stimulus payments would help to reduce poverty and further stimulate the economy. So far, more than eighty Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill have supported stimulus proposals, although these proposals have varied somewhat in size and scope.
To support their case, the lawmakers have drawn from a number of studies underlining the programs’ popularity and effectiveness. They have also noted that, in spite of the recovery, things remain worse for many Americans than they were before the pandemic began; a recent TransUnion survey, for instance, suggested that even amidst the recovery, four in ten Americans had still lost income following the pandemic. The unemployment rate is still roughly 6 percent, or almost double its pre-pandemic level. The hardest-hit areas of the economy include the food services and hospitality sectors, which employ large numbers of poorer, blue-collar workers—workers who stand to gain the most from another round of stimulus payments.
Despite this, the Biden administration has largely moved on, ignoring the questions of another round of stimulus and focusing on pushing existing infrastructure and COVID relief bills through Congress. Last week, the president negotiated a $1.2 billion infrastructure bill with five Democrats and five Republicans, although it remains unclear if the larger Senate will approve the bill without filibustering it. Congressional Republicans have indicated their opposition to a fourth stimulus check, and the Biden administration appears to be more interested in subtracting from the bills in order to gain Republican approval than adding to them.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for The National Interest.