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Read about this new stimulus idea that’s so much better than $1,400 checks

New stimulus check
  • Congress is in the final stages of drafting and passing President Joe Biden’s economic rescue package that includes funding to send most Americans a new stimulus check.
  • The distribution of these new stimulus checks will most likely happen the way the two previous rounds did in 2020.
  • The government will start with electronic bank deposits, followed by a wave of paper check mailouts — the latter of which can pose a series of problems.

When Americans first learned they would be getting a new stimulus check last year in the still-early days of the coronavirus pandemic, it quickly became apparent how the distribution of this emergency cash infusion from the federal government would unfold.

Both times, in fact, that the Trump administration sent out a round of stimulus checks in 2020 — starting in March, with generally $1,200 stimulus checks, and then a round of $600 checks in December — things started with some people getting their money as an electronic deposit. Everybody else, meanwhile, had to wait for the paper version of their stimulus funds to arrive in the mail, as a check that you’d have to take the extra step of depositing into your bank. More than likely, many of those people had the capability to snap a picture of the stimulus check from the IRS with their smartphone and deposit it remotely into their account. But if they didn’t, they had to drive to the bank and do it the old fashioned way. Now here we are in 2021, waiting for the Biden administration to get started with its version of the same thing, and it’s leading some people to ask some pretty obvious questions — starting with, why, in 2021, are we still relying on sending paper checks through the mail, like the Internet was never invented or something?

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The distribution of both rounds of stimulus checks last year was patchy, to say the least, thanks to many Americans being sent the wrong amount of money or having to wait much longer to receive their stimulus money than they would have liked to wait — on account of the IRS not having their bank info, which meant that a paper check had to be sent out.

A recent MarketWatch editorial raises the question, meanwhile, of why the government, in 2021, is still relying on checks at all? Especially when time is of the essence, with the whole motivation behind these stimulus bills being to get money into peoples’ hands as quickly as possible, so that they’ll spend it as quickly as possible?

This is one reason why the dramatic proposal from progressive congressional leaders like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (to send Americans $2,000 monthly stimulus payments until the COVID crisis is over) is not necessarily as practical as it sounds. Even if an idea like that could make it through Congress and be signed into law, if you think those paper checks would show up in your mailbox with any predictable regularity, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

It makes sense to ask why any of the countless banking-related apps like PayPal and Venmo can’t be used for something like this. There’s even a way that the US Treasury can send out cash to account holders via a feature of its website called Treasury Direct. This would cut down on some of the stupid problems that have dogged the stimulus check distributions since March of 2020 — things like checks being sent to the wrong address, lost in the mail, delayed, or arriving but not with the full amount of money the recipient was eligible for.

If we’re going to bother doing this, let’s do it right. Electronic distribution should be the way these stimulus check distributions are handled, with some other backup method that doesn’t rely on waiting for paper checks to arrive, eventually, in the mail.

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Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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