Lawmakers in Congress — who spend most of their time bickering about minutia and playing politics — are expected to get back to the business of the American people, which is figuring out a way to help the millions of Americans hurting because of the COVID-19 lockdowns and shuttering of businesses deemed “non-essential” during the pandemic panic.
More than 44 million Americans have lost their jobs in an economy that was recently declared to be officially in a recession. Lawmakers agreed months ago to provide one-time payments of $1,200 to taxpayers who make less than $75,000 a year, but plans for a second payment have been mired in political wrangling and have so far gone nowhere.
Last month, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) pushed a bill through the Democrat-controlled chamber that would spend some $3 trillion on a slew of projects, only a portion of which would go to taxpayers. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed that Republicans who control that chamber won’t pass a bill that spends more than $1 trillion. President Trump, for his part, splits the difference, urging the passage of a $2 trillion stimulus bill.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that the Trump administration is considering more direct payments to Americans to stem the financial pain caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “I think we’re going to seriously look at whether we want to do more direct money to stimulate the economy,” Mnuchin said Wednesday while testifying before the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
Under another $3 trillion package passed by House Democrats in May, the federal government could send a second round of $1,200 checks to American adults and children. But lawmakers say those payments wouldn’t go out until July at the earliest.
Some senators, including Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who is on the shortlist to become Joe Biden’s running mate, are pushing for more. Harris, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Sen Ed Markey (D-MA) proposed a bill in May that would give most Americans a monthly payment of $2,000 until the virus starts to recede, similar to the “universal base income” pushed by former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
Bills are piling up, rent is due, millions are jobless. A one-time $1,200 check won’t cut it.
We need to provide $2,000 a month to every man, woman and child—and make it retroactive to cover the past three months.
If we can bail out corporations, we can ensure everyone’s needs.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) June 8, 2020
But Congress is under no urgency to help Americans. In fact, lawmakers plan to take a two-week recess, CBS News reports, from July 3 until July 17, so any action to help won’t come until after they return.
Under the second stimulus bill, individuals were eligible for payments up to $1,200, but that amount declined for those with an adjusted gross income higher than $75,000 a year. The $1,200 payment dropped by 5% of every dollar above $75,000, or $50 for every $1,000. The benefit didn’t apply for individuals with incomes over $99,000.
Married couples with combined incomes up to $150,000 received $2,400, subject to the same phaseout that applies to individuals. The payments were phased out entirely for couples making $198,000 or more. Families also got $500 per dependent child under the age of 16.
About 120 million U.S. taxpayers qualified for direct payments from the federal government under the bill, according to an analysis by one think tank.
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