WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Approval for a $1.9 trillion-dollar coronavirus emergency plan, including $1,400 stimulus checks, is moving slower than some people would like as President Joe Biden seeks bipartisan support for his plan.
A possible concession in his proposal? Earlier this week, Biden indicated he is open to negotiations over who will receive a check, meaning the direct payments may be more targeted at lower-income Americans than Biden’s original plan.
The latest round of $600 incentive checks was limited to individuals earning less than $75,000 a year and married couples earning less than $150,000.
Targeting the payments may be the right move, according to new research. Opportunity Insights, a not-for-profit research organization, reports that families earning about $75,000 are likely to quickly spend the money that fuels the economy. In contrast, those who make more than $75,000 usually put it in a savings account. Researchers say this shows that the money was not urgently needed.
As Biden makes that decision, he has a few choices with his general aid proposal: Try to appease Republicans by sacrificing part of his agenda or try to pass as much as possible on a party basis.
At this point, it looks like he’s choosing option one.
On Sunday, the Biden administration had a private meeting with a bipartisan group of 16 senators, mostly centrists, who played a key role in drafting and delivering the latest round of COVID aid. The ability to win over that coalition, led by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, DW.Va., will be at the center of each path, a test run for working with Congress on a two-pronged basis.
The Biden team’s approach could set the tone for the rest of his presidency, showing whether he can provide the partisan cure he asked for in last week’s inaugural address and whether the narrowly divided Senate has a trusted partner or a roadblock to the White House will be on his agenda.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday her party could approve the plan next week, saying families and businesses in need can’t wait.
“We want it to be always twofold, but we can’t surrender,” Pelosi said.
As of now, the majority of Republicans are hesitating against the price tag, saying the provisions in the plan are flawed.
“Too much of the money isn’t going directly to the people who need it most,” said Senator Roger Marshall, specifically pointing to additional $1,400 stimulus, a minimum wage increase and billions for local and state governments.
As of now, February would likely be the earliest we could see an approved package. Some analysts are predicting that it could be mid-March before we see any action.
Once approved, the US Treasury Department was able to hand out the checks within days. They have significantly improved processing speed from the first round of $1,200 checks to the more recent $600 payment.
There is some concern that impeachment proceedings against the outgoing president could delay the trial. The Senate trial of Donald Trump is expected to begin sometime in the coming weeks. Whether it turns out to be a distraction in the stimulus process, of course, remains to be seen.
The coronavirus emergency response plan comes as a divided country is gripped by the most dangerous wave of the pandemic yet. More than 430,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the US so far, and recent government figures reported an increase in weekly unemployment claims to 965,000, a sign that rising infections are forcing companies to cut spending and lay off workers.
According to Biden’s multi-track strategy, about $400 billion would go directly to fighting the pandemic, with the rest focused on economic aid and aid to states and localities.
About $20 billion would be allocated for a more disciplined focus on vaccination, on top of the roughly $8 billion already approved by Congress. Biden has called for mass vaccination centers to be set up and mobile units to be sent to hard-to-reach areas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.