Biden Willing to Scale Back Stimulus Relief for Well-Off Households

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on Feb. 1, 2021

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A hand holding a small American flag and a stimulus check from the U.S. Treasury.

Image source: Getty Images

Though the president has his eyes on a big relief package, he is willing to compromise.

Americans continue to struggle financially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Many households have, at this point, depleted their savings and are running on fumes (or, more accurately, debt).

President Joe Biden is eager to provide more relief, and he wants to do it quickly. To this end, he's proposed a $1.9 trillion aid package that includes boosted unemployment benefits and a round of $1,400 stimulus checks.

It's the latter feature that's already a sticking point among Republicans, who want to lower the price tag of the next relief bill. For weeks, opposition lawmakers have argued that a blanket round of $1,400 stimulus checks is a waste of resources. And the president is definitely willing to consider that argument for the sake of getting aid out to the public quickly.

Fighting for targeted aid

Republicans don't want to see a round of $1,400 stimulus payments go out to people who are faring well and don't need the cash. They argue additional money should be reserved for households who truly need it. Biden is, in turn, open to negotiating his $1.9 trillion bill -- specifically, scaling down those stimulus payments for families making more than $150,000.

If the same income phase-out system that applied for the last two stimulus rounds were to apply to this upcoming $1,400 round, it's feasible that some households earning $300,000 or more could receive at least a partial stimulus payment. And that's precisely what Republican lawmakers don't want to see.

In fact, some lawmakers argue that any additional stimulus cash should be reserved for the jobless only. That, however, doesn't quite solve the problem of not sending money to people who don't need it. It's conceivable that a given household could have one member collecting unemployment, but still earn a competitive wage all-in if the other partner is bringing home a $300,000 salary.

Altered eligibility may be the answer

Biden may not be willing to scale down his $1,400 stimulus checks to a smaller sum. But he may be willing to alter the way eligibility is determined so that money goes to the people who need it. The president is meeting with Republican lawmakers on Feb. 1 to discuss the matter further. Winning over Republicans could help Biden all but secure a lock on his relief package, which ultimately needs Senate support to pass into law.

The issue of boosted unemployment may also come up in that meeting. In the past, Republican lawmakers have expressed concerns over increasing benefits too generously. Biden is calling for a $400 weekly increase in unemployment benefits through September. Right now, benefits are boosted by $300 a week through mid-March, but it's likely that the jobless rate will remain elevated beyond that point. Seeing as how the U.S. economy is still in dire shape, those benefits, combined with a round of $1,400 payments, could help a lot of households stay afloat or start to dig out of their current holes.

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