WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — It’s possible we could see some action next week on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan that includes $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans.
On Friday, Biden said Congress needs to take immediate action.
“We have learned from past crises that the risk is not doing too much,” Biden said. “The risk is not doing enough.”
Biden spoke as Democrats who lead the Senate and House prepared to take the first steps next week toward delivering fresh assistance to Americans and businesses.
Thus far, the process has moved slowly as Biden considered whether to appease Republicans by sacrificing some of his agenda or try to pass as much as possible on a party-line basis through the budget reconciliation process.
As of now, it’s unclear which direction Democrats might choose to go. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi opened the door so her party could pass the plan on its own.
“We want it to be bipartisan always but we can’t surrender,” Pelosi said.
The majority of Republicans are balking at the price tag and say provisions in the plan are flawed.
“Too much of the money is not directly going to the people who need it the most,” Sen. Roger Marshall said, pointing specifically to additional $1,400 stimulus checks, a minimum wage increase and billions for local and state governments.
Earlier this week, Biden indicated he’s open to negotiating who receives a check — meaning the direct payments may be more targeted to lower-income Americans than Biden’s original plan.
The last round of $600 stimulus checks was limited to individuals earning less than $75,000 a year and married couples earning less than $150,000.
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According to new research, targeting the payments may be the right move. Opportunity Insights, a nonprofit research organization, reports families earning around $75,000 are likely to quickly spend the funds, which help stimulate the economy. In contrast, those who make more than $75,000 usually put it in savings. Researchers say this shows the money wasn’t urgently needed.
As of now, February would likely be the earliest we could see a package approved. Some analysts are predicting it could be mid-March before we see action.
Once approved, the U.S. Department of the Treasury could distribute checks in a matter of days. They’ve improved the processing speed substantially 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 process. It’s expected that Donald Trump’s trial in the Senate would begin at some point in the next few weeks. Of course, whether it proves to be a distraction in the stimulus process remains to be seen.
The coronavirus relief plan comes as a divided nation is in the grip of the pandemic’s most dangerous wave yet. So far, more than 430,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the U.S., and recent government numbers reported a jump in weekly unemployment claims to 965,000, a sign that rising infections are forcing businesses to cut back and lay off workers.
Under Biden’s multipronged strategy, about $400 billion would go directly to combating the pandemic, while the rest is focused on economic relief and aid to states and localities.
About $20 billion would be allocated for a more disciplined focus on vaccination, on top of some $8 billion already approved by Congress. Biden has called for setting up mass vaccination centers and sending mobile units to hard-to-reach areas.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.