(CBS NEWS) – President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan would provide a third round of federal stimulus checks to millions of Americans. Yet while lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed support for the proposal, there is less agreement on who should be eligible for the $1,400 direct payments.
Congressional Democrats are moving forward with Mr. Biden’s relief plan through a process called budget reconciliation, which would allow the Senate to approve the effort without any Republican support. As the process moves forward, House and Senate committees will discuss spending priorities before drafting and voting on legislation.
On February 4, the Senate approved a bipartisan plan introduced by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator Susan Collins to block “upper income citizens” from the next round of stimulus checks. Notably, however, the plan doesn’t define “upper income.” The measure would ensure that “the struggling families that need it most” would receive the checks, Collins said in a statement.
The amendment adds “uncertainty whether all the Senate Democrats will support President Joe Biden’s full plan, with Joe Manchin already expressing doubts about the need to send $1,400 stimulus checks to those that might not need the money,” Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics, told investors in a research note.
On Thursday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told CNBC that the stimulus package should move through Congress over the “next couple of weeks,” getting closer to enactment. She noted that Mr. Biden wants “to make sure that [the next stimulus check is] appropriately targeted so they go to people in need. You know, not to very high-income people who don’t need it.”
But, she added, the economy is still in need of stimulus, with millions of families continuing to cope with income and job losses. “We have an unemployment rate that if properly measured in some sense, is really close to 10%,” Yellen said. “In addition to over 9 million people unemployed, we have 4 million who’ve dropped out of the labor force, another 2 million who have seen reduced hours.”
Are stimulus checks helping the economy?
The U.S. economy continues to struggle with higher-than-normal layoffs and other setbacks. Almost 800,000 people applied for jobless benefits in the week ending February 6, a dip from the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. At the same time, new economic data released on February 17 indicates that the second stimulus check is working as intended, with retail sales jumping 5.3% in January, or five times higher than expected.
“Those outsized gains in big ticket discretionary items suggests the $900 billion fiscal stimulus passed late last year is working as intended — with most Americans receiving $600 per person stimulus checks early in the month, while monthly unemployment insurance payments were increased,” noted Michael…
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