After putting stricter limits on who will receive another stimulus check last month, Democrats are once again changing their proposal to give most Americans suffering amid the coronavirus pandemic $1,400.
The proposed change would deny checks to higher earners who would have received only partial checks under the previous version of the legislation, which cut off payments to individuals earning more than $100,000 and couples above $200,000.
The new cutoffs would be $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for joint filers, according to a Democratic source.
Democrats intended the $1,400 checks to complement the $600 payments from the last pandemic relief bill Congress passed in December, since Joe Biden and Democratic senate candidates in the Georgia runoff promised to deliver $2,000 checks.
Individuals with incomes beneath $75,000 and couples earning less than $150,000 would still receive the full $1,400 under the proposed change. But the lower income limit means that some people who received partial payments from the December bill would not receive partial payments from the next one.
Since the $1,400 checks are for both individuals and their children, some higher-earning households would miss out on partial payments worth thousands of dollars.
Eighty-six percent of American adults would still receive checks, down from 91% under the previous proposal, a decline of about 11 million, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a D.C. think tank.
“That being said, for most people it does not make a difference and it basically makes no difference for the bottom 60% of Americans, the folks who really need help,” ITEP’s Steve Wamhoff said in an email.
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee, told HuffPost on Tuesday, “There’s been a very strong effort to try and target the help for some time,” meaning moderates have wanted the funds restricted to people with lower incomes.
“Obviously, there are some senators who want to do that ― I don’t,” Wyden said.
The changes were demanded by a group of moderate Democrats who wanted to use the money saved on checks for other forms of relief, such as funding to expand broadband access in rural areas and to support health care providers who lost revenue during the pandemic. The group, which includes Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) met virtually with Biden earlier this week.
One proposal Democrats aren’t changing in their coronavirus relief package is an extended $400 jobless benefit for those who became unemployed due to the pandemic. Moderate Democrats had pushed to lower that benefit to $300 per week out of the concern that it would disincentivize work just as the economy is beginning to turn a corner. The weekly federal supplement currently stands at $300 in addition to whatever claimants receive in state benefits.
Wyden had hoped to continue the federal benefits through September, instead of through August as in the House bill, but couldn’t do so without lowering the supplement to $300, a source said.
With two contentious issues resolved within their conference, Democrats are now on track to pass the $1.9 trillion bill later this week. They have zero room for error in an evenly divided 50-50 Senate ― no Republicans are expected to vote for the proposal despite its broad popularity with the public, meaning every Democrat must vote for the bill.
This is the second time Democrats lowered the upper-income limit for the $1,400 checks. They previously barred joint filers with incomes over $200,000 after independent analyses showed households earning nearly $400,000 stood to receive payments under Biden’s original proposal.