WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Approval for a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan that includes $1,400 stimulus checks is moving slower than some people would like as President Joe Biden aims to get bipartisan backing for his plan.
One potential concession in his proposal? Earlier this week, Biden indicated he’s open to negotiating who receives a check — meaning the direct payments may be more targeted to lower-income Americans than Biden’s original plan.
The last round of $600 stimulus checks was limited to individuals earning less than $75,000 a year and married couples earning less than $150,000.
According to new research, targeting the payments may be the right move. Opportunity Insights, a nonprofit research organization, reports families earning around $75,000 are likely to quickly spend the funds which helps stimulate the economy. To contrast, those who make more than $75,000 usually put it in savings. Researchers say this shows the money wasn’t urgently needed.
As Biden makes that decision, he has a couple choices with his overall relief proposal: try to appease Republicans by sacrificing some of his agenda or try to pass as much as possible on a party-line basis.
As of now, it appears he’s taking option one.
On Sunday, the Biden administration met privately with a bipartisan group of 16 senators, mostly centrists, who were among those instrumental in crafting and delivering the most recent round of COVID aid. The ability to win over that coalition, led by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., will be central to any path, a test-run for working with Congress on a bipartisan basis.
The Biden team’s approach could set the tone for the rest of his presidency, showing whether he can provide the partisan healing that he called for in last week’s inaugural address and whether the narrowly split Senate will be a trusted partner or a roadblock to the White House agenda.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Thursday her party could pass the plan as soon as next week, saying families and businesses in need can’t wait.
“We want it to be bipartisan always but we can’t surrender,” Pelosi said.
As of now, the majority of Republicans are balking at the price tag and say provisions in the plan are flawed.
“Too much of the money is not directly going to the people who need it the most,” Sen. Roger Marshall said, pointing specifically to additional $1,400 stimulus checks, a minimum wage increase and billions for local and state governments.
As of now, February would likely be the earliest we could see a package approved. Some analysts are predicting it could be mid-March before we see action.
Once approved, the U.S. Department of the Treasury could distribute checks in a matter of days. They’ve improved the processing speed substantially from the first round of $1,200 checks to the more recent $600 payment.
There is some concern that impeachment proceedings against the outgoing president could delay the process. It’s expected that Donald Trump’s trial in the Senate would begin at some point in the next few weeks. Of course, whether it proves to be a distraction in the stimulus process remains to be seen.
The coronavirus relief plan comes as a divided nation is in the grip of the pandemic’s most dangerous wave yet. So far, more than 430,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S., and recent government numbers reported a jump in weekly unemployment claims, to 965,000, a sign that rising infections are forcing businesses to cut back and lay off workers.
Under Biden’s multipronged strategy, about $400 billion would go directly to combating the pandemic, while the rest is focused on economic relief and aid to states and localities.
About $20 billion would be allocated for a more disciplined focus on vaccination, on top of some $8 billion already approved by Congress. Biden has called for setting up mass vaccination centers and sending mobile units to hard-to-reach areas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.