Moderate Senate Democrats Force Reduction in COVID-19 Stimulus Check Availability; More Than 17 Million Americans Impacted

The White House and President Biden have agreed to reduce eligibility requirements for a new round of $1,400 stimulus checks — a decision that will impact an estimated 12 million adults and 5 million children, all of whom will no longer qualify for the relief payments.

The move comes as the Senate gears up to vote on approval of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill which has already passed the House.

Erica Werner and Jeff Stein of The Washington Post have reported that “under the new structure, the checks would phase out faster for those at higher income levels compared with the way the direct payments were structured in Biden’s initial proposal and the version of the bill passed by the House on Saturday.”

In the previous version of the relief bill passed by the House, people earning up to $75,000 per year and couples making up to $150,000 per year would qualify for the full $1,400 payment. Payments would then gradually decrease in amount, with the qualification threshold being $100,000 per year for individuals and $200,000 for couples.

“Under the changes agreed to by Biden and Senate Democratic leadership individuals earning $75,000 per year and couples earning $150,000 would still receive the full $1,400-per-person benefit,” Werner and Stein reported. “However, the benefit would [now] disappear for individuals earning more than $80,000 annually and couples earning more than $160,000.”

Meaning: singles making between $80,000 and $100,000 and couples earning between $160,000 and $200,000 would no longer qualify for stimulus relief checks.

Democratic senators Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia were among those who campaigned for a reduction in income eligibility. 

“I think we could drop it below the $200,000 and still get households that really need it,” Shaheen stated in an interview defending her decision. Both Shaheen and Manchin hope that by reducing the number of families getting stimulus checks, more money could be redirected to other areas such as hospitals and vaccination support. 

At one point, there was talk of lowering eligibility requirements to $50,000 from senior Democrats but that idea was quickly abandoned after backlash led by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

In her daily White House press briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the President was always open to a faster phaseout for higher-earning individuals and that he was “comfortable” with where the negotiations currently stood.

The COVID-19 relief bill is currently scheduled for the final Senate vote on Thursday, March 4, in what promises to be a hectic day on Capitol Hill. Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is forcing Senate officials to read the entire 600-plus-page relief bill aloud before debate can begin — a process that could take 10 hours or longer — as part of his opposition to the measure. And Capitol Hill police are also ramping up security in the area over possible threats of violence from Trump supporters. The House has already canceled a session as a precaution over potential civic unrest.

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