Stimulus checks printed at the Philadelphia Financial Center in Philadelphia.
Jeff Fusco | Getty Images
If a $1.9 trillion coronavirus emergency package converges on Capitol Hill, millions of additional direct payments to Americans could be in the works.
The legislation under discussion includes $1,400 incentive checks that could bring total direct payments to Americans to $2,000 in recent months.
The $1,400 would go to adults, as well as children and adult dependents.
To qualify, individuals and families should have income within certain ranges.
Individuals with adjusted gross incomes up to $75,000 and married couples up to $150,000 receive full payments. Those with incomes above that level would see their payments reduced, eventually tapering to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for a couple.
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The eligibility thresholds for the money have been hotly contested among both Democrats and Republicans.
Certain legislators from both sides have complained that the thresholds are too high. A Republican proposal called for limiting payments to $50,000 in annual income for individuals and $100,000 for couples.
Still others, namely Senator Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have objected to lowering the thresholds.
“To say to an employee in Vermont or California or anywhere that if you’re making $52,000 a year, you’re too rich to get this help, the full benefit, I think that’s absurd,” Sanders said recently.
This week, the House Ways and Means Committee released its draft legislation, which included a $50 phaseout rate for every $1,000 above full payment thresholds. While that percentage is similar to previous controls, experts say the proposal will help limit how much higher earners, such as those with multiple children, receive, if anything.
The question now is whether the proposal can be substantially amended if the House advances the measure.
Bill Hoagland, senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center and former Senate staffer, said he doesn’t expect there will be a markup in the Senate finance committee.
Furthermore, as lawmakers want to move the package forward through budget alignment, there are only a limited number of changes that can be made.
“The process is very limited in how you can change a reconciliation law,” Hoagland said.
All amendments should be relevant or relevant, and not strange, he said. The definition of what might qualify as a relevant amendment in the Senate is very restrictive.
“You can change a number,” Hoagland said. “You can hit something.
“But it’s very limited,” he added. “You can’t add a new language.”
If instead the Senate Finance Committee flags the bill, the proposal would go through a more normal legislative process. As a result, there could be more changes, including stricter rules on eligibility for the payments.
“But the current train is moving very fast and it will be difficult to change what comes out of the house,” Hoagland said.