Some Americans have received as much as $3,200 from the federal government since the start of the coronavirus pandemic: $1,200 from the Cares Act in March 2020; $600 in the December rescue package; and $1,400 from President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
And the IRS has issued nearly 167 million payments as part of Biden’s relief measure, worth more than $391 billion.
But even with the added financial ledge, millions of Americans are still struggling due to the economic impacts caused by the pandemic, as roughly 40 percent have said their income remains lower than pre-pandemic levels, according to a survey from TransUnion, a financial services firm.
That financial distress has propelled lawmakers to push for a fourth round of stimulus payments or recurring checks until the pandemic is over.
Almost 16 million people are still getting some form of unemployment insurance nationwide, as the jobless rate stands at nearly double what it was before the pandemic—6.1 percent, compared to 3.5 percent. And roughly 25 percent of Americans found it difficult to pay for essential expenses last week, a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis reported.
A Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll released in February found that stimulus payment recipients said they planned to spend the direct relief on basic household expenses like food and housing costs.
More than two million people have also signed onto an effort that calls on Congress to deliver $2,000 monthly stimulus checks to eligible Americans until the pandemic is over. The Change.org petition directly addresses the House and the Senate, urging both congressional chambers to draft a bill that would provide “$2,000 payments for adults and $1,000 payment for kids” until the pandemic subsides.
Back in January, House Democrats ignited additional direct payment talks to help struggling Americans.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) led the House’s effort, contending in a statement to the president with more than 50 colleagues, “A one-time payment of $2,000 is simply not enough. The American people are counting on us to deliver transformative change, and we need to meet the moment by delivering monthly payments of $2,000.”
Several Senate Democrats have also pushed Biden to support recurring direct payments, citing the impact of the crisis.
In a letter signed by 21 Senators, the lawmakers wrote to Biden saying, “We urge you to include recurring direct payments and automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions in your Build Back Better long-term economic plan.”
“This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. Families should not be at the mercy of constantly-shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions,” the Senate Democrats wrote.
In the meantime, some states, including California and Maryland, have passed a fourth round of relief checks at the state level.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and state legislators announced a multi-billion dollar relief bill earlier this year that would send about two-thirds of Californians $600 one-time payments. In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) started offering payments of $300 per individual or $500 per family, a measure that he passed in February.
But at the federal level, it’s largely unlikely that a fourth stimulus payment would see success on Capitol Hill.
Republicans have balked at supporting another relief bill that pumps federal aid into the pockets of American, arguing that the stimulus money deterred people from returning back to work, citing the widespread labor shortages.
The big-spending effort is unlikely to get bipartisan support, forcing Democrats to resort to budget reconciliation to send more checks to Americans. But that means Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) would need to hold the entire Democratic caucus in the upper chamber together to back more stimulus payments.
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.