A little more than one month from now, a new stimulus-related benefit is set to begin that will send millions of US families a monthly check from the IRS depending on how many eligible children they have as well as the details of their personal financial situation. These new stimulus checks will be for either $250 or $300, and the recurring nature of them will represent a big expansion of the federally funded social safety net — the IRS has said some 39 million households will receive at least one of these payments, which will also turn the IRS into another federal entity that pays taxpayers on a regular basis, instead of being by and large a collection agency up to this point.
Meantime, plenty of people are still talking about, predicting, and/or hoping for a new stimulus check proper, along the lines of the three payments (for $1,200, $600, and $1,400) that came before. The drumbeat of calls for such payments continues to grow in some circles — such as among national Democratic lawmakers, and via this Change.org petition that’s now garnered more than 2.25 million signatures — but it’s probably wishful thinking at this point to assume you’ll get another new stimulus check, the same as the three previous ones. Here’s why.
Most of the conversation around a possible fourth or even fifth stimulus check happening right now is focused on poverty and on the impact of such payments on people’s everyday living expenses, bills, and things of that nature. In fact, that’s what a recent Bankrate.com survey found, that most people planned to use the third stimulus check — the $1,400 checks approved as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan — on things like monthly expenses, day-to-day essentials, and paying debts.
Along similar lines, the Urban Institute recently estimated that if another $1,400 stimulus check came to fruition, that payment would have a substantial impact on cutting poverty in 2021. In fact, the Washington DC-based think tank says that a fourth such stimulus check could bring the US poverty rate down to as low as 6.4%, keeping millions of Americans above the poverty line.
“We need at least one more (stimulus) check,” Adam Ruben, campaign director at the Economic Security Project, told CNBC. And this is why, because of the impact it would have on lower-middle-class and income brackets even below that one, where money in hand translates to real, tangible economic impact for the greatest number of people. Like that Change.org petition, noted above, also explains: “The true unemployment rate for low-wage workers is estimated at over 20%, and many people face large debts from last year for things like utilities, rent, and child care. These are all reasons that checks need to be targeted to people who are still struggling and that Congress needs to learn from this past year.”
The fact that poverty and expenses associated with day-to-day living continue to be talked about the most in terms of a new stimulus check would suggest that, if Congress does get around to approving more along these lines, they’re likely to alter the eligibility requirements such that the same number of people who benefited before wouldn’t be so lucky this next time around. Only the neediest, in other words, would be the new focus.