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This new stimulus check compromise is a terrible idea – but it might happen

Published Feb 3rd, 2021 11:49AM EST
Stimulus check update
Image: Andy Dean/Adobe

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  • The latest stimulus check update to emerge from President Biden’s push to get Congress to approve his $1.9 stimulus bill that includes $1,400 direct COVID relief payments is potentially bad news if you’re hoping for one of those checks.
  • Republicans, as well as some Democrats, are talking about the idea of dramatically lowering the eligibility for this next round of stimulus checks.
  • If the GOP gets its way, the stimulus checks themselves will also be smaller, possibly offering only $1,000 payments — and phased-down amounts from there.

For those of you keeping score at home and following each day’s new stimulus check update to try to ascertain when a new round of COVID-19 relief payments might be sent out, be aware that a new idea is gaining support on both sides of the legislative aisle.

Whereas President Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion relief plan for the economy, with a third round of $1,400 stimulus checks as a centerpiece, Republicans are gradually settling into their minority party status and have begun to fight back against that proposal’s implementation. To wit, a group of GOP lawmakers has sent a counter-proposal back to the president — a $600 billion relief plan, with $1,000 checks going to a much narrower group of people — that has a new stimulus-related idea at its core. This time around, the GOP thinking goes, only the neediest of the needy arguably deserve a stimulus check. But if you make more than $50,000, sorry, you’re out of luck this time. Moreover, some Democrats reportedly seem ready to, if not go along with this idea, at least give it serious consideration.

Even the White House is reportedly giving the matter some thought — the matter, again, being this idea of sending a lot less people a stimulus check this time. A White House spokeswoman, according to The Washington Post, acknowledged that the administration is open to talking about narrowing the eligibility for who can get a new stimulus check. But that same spokeswoman said the administration is not willing to entertain the idea of smaller stimulus checks, at least not yet.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise, because smaller checks would certainly bring out the pitchforks among Democrats, given the president promised Georgia voters that $2,000 stimulus checks would be all but a given if they sent two Democratic Senators to Washington DC during the high-stakes runoff election in January. Now, not even a month after Biden’s inauguration, the administration has been pushing the awkward messaging that the proposed $1,400 stimulus checks are tantamount to the promised $2,000 … but only when you add in the $600 stimulus checks approved by the Trump administration in December.

As we’ve noted already, under the terms of the GOP counter-proposal, the $1,000 checks would phase-out for individuals making $40,000 a year or more, with people who make $50,000 a year or more not receiving a stimulus check at all.

One reason why the Republican insistence on targeting the stimulus checks at only the worst-off — it ignores the reality that, because eligibility for the stimulus checks will probably be determined by looking at a previous year’s tax records, someone could have had a comfortable, well-paying job before the pandemic … and then lost it during the pandemic.

Delivering a smaller-than-expected stimulus check to only a small group of people would seem to comprise a double whammy for Democrats, in that they’d be failing to deliver on a signature campaign promise.

Nevertheless, defenders of the notion of setting stricter eligibility limits on the new round of stimulus checks point to data like this analysis, published last month by Opportunity Insights. The group, a nonprofit based at Harvard University, found that the Trump administration’s $600 stimulus checks distributed in January didn’t lead to much in the way of additional spending among higher-income taxpayers.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.