WASHINGTON - Many Americans recently saw money deposited into their bank accounts after President Joe Biden signed a new $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue package earlier this month that included a third round of direct stimulus payments. But some Democratic lawmakers are saying the $1,400 checks that most individual Americans received are not enough.
A group of 10 Democratic senators released a letter on March 2 asking Biden to include additional stimulus money in the administration’s next spending bill that’s expected to follow the American Rescue Plan, the Washington Post reported.
The letter, which was released before the passage of the most recent rescue bill, calls for recurring direct payments and says, "Almost six in ten people say the $1,400 payments set to be included in the rescue package will last them less than three months."
"When the CARES Act relief checks ran out, poverty rose, and many families saw spiraling debt. Automatic stabilizers will give families certainty that more relief is coming, allowing them to make the best decisions about how to spend their relief payments as they receive them. 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.
The letter urges Biden to include additional payments in an upcoming $3 trillion package of investments on infrastructure and domestic needs.
Biden huddled privately on the evening of March 22, with Senate Democrats as Congress began laying the groundwork with legislation for developing roads, hospitals and green energy systems as part of Biden’s "Build Back Better" campaign promise. Much like the $1.9 trillion virus rescue plan signed into law earlier this month, the new package would also include family friendly policies, this time focusing on education and paid family leave.
The infrastructure package would include roughly $1 trillion for roads, bridges, rail lines, electrical vehicle charging stations and the cellular network, among other items. The goal would be to facilitate the shift to cleaner energy while improving economic competitiveness.
A second component would include investments in workers with free community college, universal pre-kindergarten and paid family leave.
No part of the proposal has been finalized and the eventual details of any spending could change.
The overall price tag first reported Monday by The New York Times has been circulating on Capitol Hill for weeks, since the start of the Biden presidency. With the House and Senate under Democratic control, the proposals are expected to draw support from all corners of Congress.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked Democratic committee chairmen earlier this month to start working with their Republican counterparts to begin "to craft a big, bold and transformational infrastructure package."
On March 11, Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion relief package that he said will help defeat the virus, nurse the economy back to health and deliver direct aid to Americans in need. Some direct checks began arriving in American’s bank accounts the following weekend.
The plan’s key features included direct payments of $1,400 for most single taxpayers, or $2,800 for married couples filing jointly, plus $1,400 per dependent — a total of $5,600 for a married couple with two children. The payments were phased out for people with higher incomes.
Democrats were banking on direct payments to most Americans under the COVID-19 law as a strong counter to Republicans who criticized it as a "liberal wish list."
The Biden rescue plan cleared Congress without any backing from Republicans, despite polling that found broad public support. Republicans argued the bill was too expensive, especially with vaccinations making progress against the virus, and included too many provisions not directly linked to the pandemic.
The package also dramatically expanded tax credits for families with children, bolstered unemployment benefits, reduced taxes on student loan debt and lowered costs of the Obama-era health law's coverage.
"This historic legislation is about rebuilding the backbone of this country," Biden said as he signed the bill in the Oval Office.
This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.