Stimulus Update: The Push for a Fourth Stimulus Check and Who Should Get It

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  • While a fourth check is unlikely, it is still needed by many.
  • Voters can let their representatives know how they feel about more stimulus funds.

For some, the fight for a fourth stimulus check continues.

A fourth stimulus check is doubtful. Ed Mills, an analyst with investment bank and financial services company Raymond James, points out that the Biden administration is now focused on advancing its infrastructure plan, designed to reshape the economy. The Build Back Better Plan would rebuild roads, airports, and aging schools. It would also invest in a wide range of projects, like broadband and affordable housing.

President Biden knows what he's up against: A deeply divided Congress and a core group dedicated to preventing progress, even when that progress would benefit their constituencies. Any way you look at it, Biden's current focus is on convincing an entrenched bunch of lawmakers to work together to fix what ails the country. It's a tall order.

As the president focuses on the infrastructure fight, Democratic lawmakers continue to call for additional stimulus payments. Here are three reasons why it makes sense.

No. 1. Unemployment

Is the unemployment rate lower than it was this time last year? Absolutely. But there are still nearly 7 million Americans out of work. And lest we be tempted to believe those folks aren't looking for jobs or they collected so much through boosted unemployment benefits that they no longer need a job, here's a sobering fact: By February of 2021, only 30% of people without jobs received unemployment. That leaves 70% who either did not know they were eligible or fell through "unemployment cracks" without benefits.

Who were the 70%?

According to Eliza Forsythe, a labor economist at the University of Illinois, the reason so many people never received unemployment is not entirely clear. Some who were eligible did not realize they could apply. Some (wrongly) believed they were ineligible. For example, a temporarily furloughed person may not have known they were eligible for unemployment assistance.

Then some were not eligible, even though they had no chance of landing a job. They included recent college graduates and people just entering the labor market. There are also millions of people in the U.S. who have no internet connection, and with a record number of calls to state unemployment agencies, many likely gave up trying to get through.

Those who missed out on unemployment benefits may be prime candidates for additional direct stimulus funds.

No. 2. Senior citizens

Stimulus checks were a boon for senior citizens. Overwhelmingly, these retirees could not file for unemployment benefits and don't benefit from advanced Child Tax Credit checks. While 2022 Social Security beneficiaries will see a 5.9% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), Medicare's Part B premium is set to increase by $21.60 per month in 2022. Medicare Part B covers outpatient services like doctor's appointments, lab tests, and diagnostics screenings.

Here's how it all shakes out:

  • According to AARP, the estimated average Social Security retirement benefit is $1,543 a month.
  • Add in the COLA, and the average is bumped up by $91 to $1,634.
  • Subtract the Medicare Part B increase of $21.60, and the average is back down to $1,612.40.

No matter how you slice it, senior citizens dependent on Social Security checks to live may be prime candidates for additional stimulus funds. With the number of delta variant COVID cases on the rise in many states and inflation pushing up the price of consumer goods, the Senior Citizens League (TSCL), a non-partisan advocacy group, is calling on Congress to send a one-time $1,400 Social Security stimulus payment to seniors.

No. 3. Some states have stepped up

As hope for another federal stimulus check began to fade, some states stepped in with their own targeted stimulus funds. For example, California sent $600 checks to taxpayers earning between $30,000 and $75,000 annually. Florida promised $1,000 checks to educators and front-line workers. Maryland provided families with a $500 stimulus check, and Michigan rewarded teachers with up to $3,000 in hazard pay.

However, most states have not done more for their citizens, and all Republican-led states cut boosted unemployment benefits before they were scheduled to end. That leaves a huge swath of Americans living hand to mouth. As a LendingClub study found this summer, "the majority of U.S. consumers live paycheck to paycheck."

The rising cost of living coupled with years of nearly stagnant wage growth has left 54% of consumers with just enough to get by. The study found that 21% of U.S. adults have little or no money left in their bank accounts after paying bills.

Americans barely getting by may be prime candidates for additional stimulus funds.

Whether or not Congress will agree to more stimulus funds, it is clear that there are millions in need. If you would like lawmakers to consider another round of stimulus checks, you can let your thoughts be known by contacting elected representatives from your area.

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