Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey are calling on President Biden to include recurring direct payments and automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions in his Build Back Better plan.
The payments to Americans would come in addition to the $1,400 stimulus checks included in the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package passed by the House Saturday which could be taken up by the Senate as soon as mid-week.
The pair have joined with seven other Senate Democrats and Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, in proposing the additional payments, writing in a joint letter spearheaded by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden that the crisis spurred by the coronavirus pandemic is “far from over.”
Wyden is the chair of the Finance Committee and Sanders heads the Budget Committee. Other signees include California Senator Alex Padilla and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker.
“Families should not be at the mercy of constantly-shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions,” the senators wrote.
Warren on Monday also proposed a wealth tax on households with a net worth of more than $50 million, along with Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Brendan Boyle.
The senators said in the letter to Biden that there are “several reasons” why his administration should prioritize recurring payments and enhanced unemployment insurance.
While unemployment benefits have “replaced lost income for millions who have lost their jobs,” the senators said millions of Americans don’t qualify because they had to leave the workforce to care for family members, their work hours were reduced, and for other reasons. Providing recurring direct payments would act as a lifeline for them to recover from the economic troubles caused by the pandemic.
The letter cited an Urban Institute study last year that found that providing $1,200 stimulus checks to most adults, and up to three dependents, would have kept a projected 8.3 million people out of poverty in the final five months of 2020 and that additional stimulus checks would have kept another 6.3 million out of poverty.
Direct payments and enhanced unemployment insurance “are among the most effective forms of relief available,” the senators said.
“Not only do these payments help keep families out of poverty, but they act as economic stimulus by increasing spending and supporting jobs,” the letter said.
Such assistance, the senators said, would give families certainty that more relief is on the way, enabling them to make “the best decisions about how to spend their relief payments.”
“Families shouldn’t have to worry about whether they’ll have enough money to pay for essentials in the months ahead as the country continues to fight a global pandemic,” the letter reads.
According to a survey by the Economic Security Project, 25 percent of people said the single $1,400 check included in the relief package would only last them a week or two, while 60 percent said it would last them three months or less.
Natalie Foster, cochair of the Economic Security Project, said recurring direct cash payments are necessary to “truly build back better” until the economy has recovered.
“People who can barely make ends meet and are going without food, medicines, and electricity cannot afford to be held hostage to political games in Washington or partisan gridlock,” Foster said in a statement. “They need steady and regular relief.”
The senators also said that Wyden’s plan has “wide support” from the general public and economists. Polling from the Data for Progress found that 65 percent of Americans “support a $2,000 monthly direct cash payment” for the duration of the pandemic
More than 150 economists recently wrote that direct cash payments “are an essential tool that will boost economic security, drive consumer spending, hasten the recovery, and promote certainty at all levels of government and the economy – for as long as necessary.”
The senators concluded their letter to Biden by reminding him of a message he championed during his inauguration speech: “It’s time for boldness.”
“As you prepare your Build Back Better plan for long-term economic recovery, know that we are ready to work with you in support of recurring direct checks and extended unemployment insurance benefits to support Americans who are still struggling during the pandemic,” the letter reads.
Adam Green, cofounder of the Progressive Change Institute, said Biden could expect widespread support from Senate Democrats if he includes recurring benefits in his plan, and that “every senator would be smart” to join those currently backing the Wyden plan.
“Georgia showed the political power of checks, and data shows these checks plus unemployment benefits keep millions of families out of poverty,” Green said in a statement. He was referring to the January runoff victories in that state of Democrats Jon Osoff and Raphael Warnock after they campaigned on providing additional stimulus payments to struggling Americans.