In recent weeks, as payments from the third stimulus measure have been cashed and spent, support has increased for a fourth stimulus check. Several members of the House and Senate, mostly Democrats on the party’s progressive wing, have pushed President Biden to lend his support to a fourth round of checks; the president has received three letters to this effect since taking office in January.
However, while Biden has made his ambitious spending plans explicit on several occasions, and has praised the economic impact of previous stimulus checks, he has demurred from committing to another one. On the topic of a fourth round of checks, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was noncommittal during a press conference, noting the measures’ high cost before suggesting, “We’ll see what members of Congress propose.” In saying this, the White House has effectively passed the initiative on a stimulus package to Democrats in Congress, without rejecting it altogether.
As some members of Congress prepare their proposals, an interesting statistic should be brought up. The Boston Herald reported on Monday that one and a quarter million checks from the original stimulus bill – the CARES Act, signed in March 2020 – had not yet been cashed, after more than a year.
Even so, one million out of roughly 160 million is a fairly low failure rate. Even the one million number might not tell the full story. An equally large number of checks – roughly 1.1 million in number, totaling $1.4 billion overall – were sent to the deceased in March 2020.
While many of them were ultimately cashed by heirs, this fact could account for some of the missing checks. On the flip side, though, the IRS’s number does not include the many Americans who, feeling they were financially secure enough without the check, opted to donate the payment to charity.
As the debate over stimulus policy continues in Congress – with Democrats promoting the efficacy of stimulus programs, while Republicans criticize their high costs and potentially adverse effect on the labor market – states around the country are preparing for an end to federal unemployment benefits.
Some states have ended the benefits before their August expiration date, believing that they disincentivize work amid a critical labor shortage. Other states, such as Massachusetts, have kept the benefits for the time being, but have enacted stricter controls on their distribution, requiring recipients to regularly apply for jobs in order to keep them.
Trevor Filseth is a news reporter and writer for the National Interest.