Second stimulus check: President-elect Biden’s thoughts on $1,200 payments

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(Nexstar DC photo)

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — By most accounts, the possibility of a coronavirus relief package during the remainder of President Donald Trump’s time in office is slim.

Despite an aid package and direct payments being a priority before the election, the White House has shown little interest in pushing things forward. And in Congress, Senate and House leadership are on completely different pages. The Trump administration is reportedly stepping back from negotiations on a new stimulus package and leaving it to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to revive long-stalled talks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to Bloomberg.

Coronavirus relief will likely be one of the first things on his plate when he takes office in January 2021. Biden has long pushed for additional aid and this week said Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “know my views” on stimulus.

On Monday, Biden’s transition team denied a report that he was pushing leaders to agree to a smaller stimulus package in order to get immediate relief.

In a statement to NBC News, Biden spokesman Andrew Bates called the report “incorrect,” adding the president-elect “fully supports the Speaker and Leader in their negotiations.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has denied that he is attempting to limit President-elect Joe Biden’s options for reviving the pandemic-damaged economy by ending several emergency loan programs being run by the Federal Reserve.

Mnuchin said Friday the programs were not being heavily utilized and Congress can make better use of the money by re-allocating it toward small-business grants and extended unemployment assistance.

One likely focus for the Biden team will be income support, much like what we saw in parts of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which offered generous unemployment benefits – the last of which will expire in December. But not all aid is created equal, and economists favor stimulus with large multiplier effects – that is, how much economic activity is generated for every dollar of spending.

Looking back at Biden’s messaging on the campaign trail, the president-elect said in his plan to combat the coronavirus that “we must spend whatever it takes, without delay, to meet public health needs and deal with the mounting economic consequence,” but he did not specify a stimulus payment amount.

Along with expanding free COVID-19 testing, mounting a national emergency effort and funding state and local governments, part of his plan also calls for emergency paid leave covering 100 percent of weekly salaries or average weekly earnings capped at $1,400 a week.

Eligible recipients include sick workers, workers caring for family or loved ones, those with increased risk of health complications from COVID-19, domestic workers, caregivers, gig economy workers and independent contractors. Parents dealing with school closings would be eligible for paid leave as well as child care assistance.

As of late, Pelosi has pushed for a $2.2 trillion relief package that would provide a second round of one-time $1,200 stimulus checks to Americans – payments that, at one time, had bipartisan support — including the backing of President Trump.

Her proposal has been met with Republican resistance as McConnell eyes a much smaller, targeted relief measure in the ballpark of $500 billion.

On Thursday morning, Pelosi indicated that wasn’t acceptable and noted the needs of Americans as COVID cases surge to record levels.

“Were in the same place — even more so with the pandemic,” Pelosi told reporters earlier this month, according to Politico’s Jake Sherman. “Look at these numbers. Look at these predictions from the scientific community.”

At one point, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris pushed one of the more aggressive relief measures to be discussed in Congress.

In May, Harris joined Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and introduced the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act, legislation that would give a monthly $2,000 stimulus check to eligible Americans. There would be another $2,000 per child with a limit of three children – a maximum $10,000 per family per month.

To qualify, individuals would have to make less than $120,000. The measure would not require a tax return or social security number to receive the assistance, and funds would also go to the homeless and foster youth.

The payments would end “on the third month beginning after the date on which the Secretary of Health and Human Services determines that the public health emergency” of COVID-19 has ended.

While such a measure is highly unlikely, it reinforces stimulus relief is likely priority of the incoming administration.

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