While the White House and congressional Republicans are trying to hammer out a bipartisan infrastructure package, some Democrats have aimed their focus toward sending Americans additional direct relief, despite receiving $1,400 stimulus payments as part of President Joe Biden’s pandemic rescue package.
At the end of March, a group of twenty-one Senate Democrats sent a letter to the president, urging him to provide recurring payments and automatic unemployment insurance linked to economic conditions.
“While we are pleased that the American Rescue Plan included a one-time direct payment and an extension of federal unemployment insurance programs, 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 September 6,” the lawmakers wrote.
The group added, “An Urban Institute study suggests that a single direct payment of $1,200 combined with an extension of enhanced unemployment insurance and other assistance could keep 12 million people out of poverty, and adding a second direct payment could keep an additional 6.3 million people above the poverty line.”
And more than 2.3 million people have signed onto a Change.org petition that calls for recurring $2,000 to adults and $1,000 payments for children.
Although Democrats have ramped up pressure on the Biden administration to pass recurring stimulus payments, the White House hasn’t indicated whether the president backs the measure. Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki balked at signaling support for another round of direct relief.
“He’s happy to hear from a range of ideas on what would be most effective and what’s most important to the economy moving forward,” Psaki said. “But he’s also proposed what he thinks is going to be the most effective for the short term for putting people back to work, to getting through this pivotal period of time, and also to making us more competitive in the long term.”
While reports have indicated that the economy is slowly recovering, the unemployment rate still stood at 5.8 percent last month, according to the Labor Department. That was 0.3 percent less than April’s 6.1 percent rate, but the number of new jobs added to the economy fell short of what economists anticipated. The department reported that companies created 559,000 jobs last month, as economists predicted the figure to be 671,000.
Although it’s unlikely that Americans will get recurring payments until the end of the pandemic, certain residents in a number of states, including California and Maryland, were eligible for state-level direct relief. For example, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) passed $600 one-time payments for low-income families and has proposed a second round of checks, expanding the eligibility to cover middle-class residents.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.