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Stimulus checks should continue until COVID-19 is history, senators tell Biden

BY AIMEE PICCHI

Some Senate Democrats are urging President Joe Biden to overhaul the nation’s approach to handing out stimulus payments, the direct financial relief deployed by Congress to help millions of Americans affected by the economic collapse that followed the coronavirus pandemic. 

Instead of providing discrete rounds of stimulus checks that are negotiated each time and arrive months apart, the federal government should provide recurring checks to help families get by until COVID-19 is over, the 10 lawmakers said in a letter released on Tuesday. 

The request comes as the Senate takes up Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package this week, which would include a third round of stimulus checks that would direct $1,400 to millions of eligible Americans. Congress distributed $1,200 checks a year ago under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and sent an additional $600 payment in December as part of a broader stimulus bill. The senators didn’t specify an amount they are seeking for monthly direct aid.

The idea of issuing recurring stimulus payments as a way to speed up the economic recovery has been championed by progressives and some Democrats. In January, more than 50 House members urged the Biden administration to back a proposal for $2,000 monthly payments until the pandemic ends.

Supporters of the idea point out that financial hardship remains widespread around the U.S. almost a full year after COVID-19 effectively shuttered the economy. Despite the ongoing recovery, a third of adults are struggling to pay their bills, while employers have slashed roughly 10 million jobs from their payrolls during the crisis, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“The decades of research on stimulus checks back up the argument that much of this is spent, which helps stimulate the economy, and sources like the Census show there is immense need” for more funding despite the fitful recovery, said Claudia Sahm, an economist who has worked at the Federal Reserve and the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

She added, “The reason we aren’t in the 1933 world when things were really bad is because the federal government and Federal Reserve stepped in — but we aren’t out of the woods yet.”

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