The Biden administration could be open to adjusting eligibility levels for the next round of coronavirus stimulus checks to ensure aid flows go to families who need the emergency funds most, the president’s top economic adviser said tuesday morning.
Brian Deese, who joined CNBC’s “Squawk Box” from the White House, said he has welcomed Republican feedback in recent days and the party’s focus on targeting President Joe Biden’s emergency plan at people in serious financial difficulties.
“When it comes to the checks, we put forward a proposal that … the House passed by 275 votes — 44 Republicans voted for it,” Deese, director of the National Economic Council, said, referring to the bill that the House is considering. December included immediate payments of $2,000, as proposed by then-President Donald Trump.
“Certainly if there are ways to make that provision and other provisions more effective, that’s something we’re open to, that we’ll have conversations about,” he added.
Deese’s comments came as the president’s $1.9 trillion bailout was criticized by a bipartisan group of lawmakers who hoped to reduce the proposal’s price tag by passing it in parts, or by tightening requirements for families and families. individuals to qualify for a new round of checks.
White House officials, including Deese, met with several moderate Democratic and Republican senators on Sunday to discuss possible changes to Biden’s original plan.
“It was a good conversation, it was a constructive conversation. And this is part of the process,” Deese said of Sunday’s discussion. “The president came up with a plan, we are now in talks with members of Congress from both parties to consult with them.”
As written, the president’s plan calls for funds to streamline vaccinations, a $400 weekly unemployment benefit, state and local government aid, and a $15 minimum wage. It also calls for $1,400 stimulus checks, which amounts to approximately $1 trillion of the total proposed $1.9 trillion.
For Democrats, who have a wafer-thin Senate majority, opposition to a party member’s bill jeopardizes legislation. The chamber is currently split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris as the deciding vote.
For example, early opposition to the size of Senator Joe Manchin’s bill, DW.Va., has forced the Biden administration to seek support from more moderate members of the GOP, including Sens. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska and Mitt Romney from Utah.
Even before Biden’s inauguration, Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, reportedly said he would “absolutely” oppose another coronavirus check to Americans. He later clarified that he wants to ensure that each new stimulus round is targeted only at those who need it.
He and Republican colleagues also argue that it may be too early to fully appreciate the economic benefit of the $900 billion stimulus package passed by Congress in December, which included $600 checks.
Amid the bipartisan haggling, Biden said Monday he would consider limiting eligibility for the checks if it could help secure Republican support in Congress. The president has called Covid-19 and emergency relief his number 1 priority for months.
“Because it was two-pronged, I thought it would increase the chance of passage — the extra $1,400 in direct cash payment to people,” Biden said at a news conference. “Well, there’s a legitimate reason for people to say, ‘Did you draw the lines just right? Should it go to someone who makes more than X number of dollars or why?'”
“I’m open to negotiating those things,” he added. “That’s all.”
The debate over a new round of stimulus checks comes as millions of Americans remain unemployed thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and the recession it sparked last year.
The Labor Department reported Thursday that 900,000 Americans first filed for unemployment benefits from the state in the week ending Jan. 16. Meanwhile, the US unemployment rate stood at 6.7% in December, which was the highest unemployment rate since March 2014 before the global Covid-19 crisis.
Betsy Heimbuch, a resident of Jamestown, New York, told CNBC that she and her husband are struggling with the rise in costs for everyday items due to the pandemic.
She wrote that she receives income from the Social Security disability insurance program and that she spent her first stimulus check buying a smartphone to Skype her husband, who is in a nursing home.
“The cost of groceries is astonishing. I live on cottage cheese and fruit. Monday my milk runs out and I don’t have any extra money to buy until next Wednesday,” Heimbuch, 75, wrote in an email. “I feel more stressed now than I did last summer. I take anti-anxiety meds. I always wear a mask and practice social distancing. But I see neighbors going out and going here and there without masks.”
“The stimulus relieves a lot of STRESS,” she added.
Many influential economists, including Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, have warned that high unemployment could ultimately lead to an even greater rise in homelessness if Congress fails to extend eviction moratoriums or introduce additional stimulus measures. to feed.
About 18% of renters in the US, or about 10 million people, are behind on their rent payments as of early January. That’s far more than the roughly 7 million homeowners who lost their property through foreclosure more than 10 years ago during the subprime mortgage crisis and the Great Recession.