WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR/WJW) — While many Americans are hoping for a fourth stimulus check, some lawmakers are already talking about a fifth. Members of a powerful congressional committee are calling for additional rounds of economic relief from the federal government for families still struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
With the third round of $1,400 stimulus checks behind us, a letter sent late last week to President Joe Biden from seven Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee calls for a fourth and fifth round of direct payments to assist people with housing, food, and other payments. The committee oversees government budgeting and taxation. The group that signed the letter represents about 15% of the committee’s members.
“Families and workers shouldn’t have to worry about whether they’ll have enough money to pay for essentials in the months ahead as the country continues to fight a global pandemic and recession,” reads the letter. Dated May 17, it doesn’t mention a dollar amount but lays out the possibility of two additional rounds of relief.
“A fourth and fifth check could keep an additional 12 million out of poverty,” the letter reads. “Combined with the effects of the [American Recovery Plan], direct payments could reduce the number in poverty in 2021 from 44 million to 16 million.”
Still, experts say it is possible that not everyone who was previously eligible for coronavirus aid would qualify for a theoretical fourth stimulus benefit. According to Newsweek, Biden has received three other letters from Democratic legislators asking for more relief. All three reportedly advocated for multiple rounds of stimulus checks until the economy rebounds.
Those previous congressional letters asking for additional relief were been signed by over 80 Democratic lawmakers. A Change.org petition on the subject has also collected more than two million signatures from the general public.
While details about any potential relief remain uncertain, experts say future stimulus payments would likely be based on people’s 2020 tax returns. The previous rounds of checks were based on 2019 returns. This means that anyone who saw a pay increase in 2020 that puts their earnings outside of the income threshold would not receive a payment.
Even with growing support among some Democratic lawmakers, a fourth round of stimulus checks faces major hurdles. The third round of relief squeaked through Congress thanks to a budget loophole when it failed to find bipartisan support. Since then, numerous Republican governors have refused federal COVID unemployment insurance benefits arguing they encourage people to stay at home and collect money instead of getting back to work. Proposals for additional direct payments would likely face similar criticism.
On top of that, Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi have been relatively quiet on the possibility of additional checks. Instead, their focus is on passing Biden’s infrastructure plan.
Meanwhile, financial experts are speculating on what form of aid Americans may receive as continued pandemic relief. According to Yahoo! Finance, there are four possibilities on the table—recurring stimulus payments, a minimum wage hike, making the child tax credit raise permanent, and a renewal of federal unemployment payments.
Some senators are keen on having recurring payments for the duration of the pandemic, while others want to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $11 or $15 per hour. Additionally, 10 senators reportedly wrote a letter to the president asking him to extend federal unemployment assistance beyond the September expiration date.
When asked directly about stimulus checks earlier this month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki responded by saying, “We’ll see what members of Congress propose,” adding that the payments “were not free.” Psaki has said that Biden wants to make the expanded child tax credit permanent.
The government has issued three direct payments since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. About a year ago, the government sent $1,200 stimulus checks to most Americans through the CARES Act. In late 2020, the government approved payments of $600 per person. That was followed up by the third stimulus payment of $1,400.
In the latest round of COVID relief aid, the U.S. government said it sent roughly 159 million direct payments to households, with a total value of $376 billion.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.