As the final $1400 checks from the third stimulus package reach their destinations, the push for a fourth check has been stalled in Congress. Republicans have opposed the measures, arguing that they do not actually “stimulate” the economy and cost the government far too much.
While many Democrats have pushed for another check, not all have supported it; Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), for instance, has argued in the past that the bills have gone too far. Until the Biden administration ekes out an acceptable compromise in Congress, involving horse-trading with Senator Manchin and the Republican caucus, another stimulus check seems unlikely.
However, as Congress discusses the nuances of COVID-19 relief, there has been an increasing movement pushing for stimulus checks from below. A popular Change.org petition argues that Congress should pass a stimulus bill granting every American $2000 per month for the duration of the pandemic. Change.org petitions are hardly sources of legal authority, but Congress might do well to pay attention to this one: it passed two million signatures earlier this year, slightly under one percent of all eligible voters in the United States.
The petition’s author, Stephanie Bonin, is a Colorado restaurant owner; in the aftermath of her restaurant’s March 2020 closure, she created it, as a way of telling Congress why regular payments were essential for her and other Americans’ well-being. The petition shot to one million signatures within a month; it took another year to cross the threshold of two million. Its signing rate is increasing again, possibly due to coverage from Colorado outlets.
Other Americans seem to have much in common with Bronin’s experiences. The petition’s comments section is filled with dozens of stories of struggle and loss during the pandemic. These revealing comments center around one theme: people’s lives and livelihoods have been profoundly disturbed by the events of 2020, and a regular supply of money, not simply an occasional stimulus check negotiated periodically on Capitol Hill, is needed to stay afloat.
Many in Washington will not hear this message. Those who do are concerned about costs. But the petition’s stated goal of a $2000 monthly check is picking up steam, especially on the progressive left. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) has stated her support for such a measure, as has Vice President Kamala Harris. While the numbers required for another stimulus bill are logistically daunting, the popular demand for such a measure – evidenced, perhaps, by the popularity of the petition – should help it along.
Trevor Filseth is a current affairs writer for The National Interest.