As President Joe Biden’s two stimulus proposals – the American Families Plan and American Jobs Plan – make their way through the Senate, they have been subject to considerable modification. While the two plans were originally slated to spend a combined $4 trillion over the next ten years, Biden has cut these spending goals considerably in the face of Republican opposition.
Some Democrats in the House and Senate, seeking to add to the bills instead of detract from them, have ambitiously if implausibly proposed tacking a new measure onto the American Families Plan. In addition to the plan’s prior goals, including an increase in the Child Tax Credit, subsidies for health care, and free community college, they have proposed adding a fourth stimulus check.
Although such a measure would be unlikely to pass through a Republican-contested Congress, there is anecdotal and slight statistical evidence to suggest that it would be popular. A survey cited in a recent letter from House Democrats to the president revealed that nearly two-thirds of Americans supported a fourth stimulus payment, in a survey conducted by Data for Progress, a progressive polling firm.
And the Democrats in favor of a fourth stimulus measure now have more ammunition for their case. A new study conducted by the University of Michigan, citing the Household Pulse Survey put out by the U.S. Census Bureau, determined that the number of hungry Americans with urgent food insecurity decreased by roughly 40 percent from December 2020 until April 2021. At the same time, the number of Americans who had difficulty paying their bills decreased by nearly half.
It is likely not a coincidence that, during this period, two stimulus checks were passed in succession by the Trump and Biden administrations: a $600 check in December 2020, followed by a $1400 check in March 2021. These, combined with generous federal unemployment insurance payments of up to $300 per week, are likely responsible for the drop recorded by the Census Bureau. Moreover, the Congressional Budget Office reported that the initial $1200 stimulus checks passed in the March 2020 CARES Act accounted for a boost of 0.6 percent in the economy.
The same Household Pulse Survey indicated that 85 percent of American households received a stimulus check at some point in 2020 or 2021, including 92 percent of the households that met the income qualifications (less than $75,000 per year for an individual, or $150,000 for a couple filing jointly).
Trevor Filseth is a news reporter and writer for the National Interest.