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The White House says it's up to Congress to decide on sending more stimulus checks because they're 'not free'

Submitted by Tech Insider on May 4, 2021 - 4:31pm

jen psaki

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The White House said Tuesday it will be up to Congress to decide if more direct payments go out the door this year, saying they are a costly measure for the federal government to deploy.

"We'll see what members of Congress propose, but those are not free," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a press conference.

Psaki touted the revamped child tax credit, a provision that Biden's stimulus bulked up to $3,600 per child aged 5 and under, or $3,000 per kid between 6 and 17. The president's newest $1.8 trillion economic proposal sets that up as a child allowance that lasts through 2025.

"If passed, the families of tens of millions of children will continue to get regular payments," she said. "Obviously, we're continuing to evaluate what their needs are — to continue to get the pandemic under control, put people back to work, but we think that's a proposal with a long-term benefit."

The stimulus law in March included a round of $1,400 direct payments for individuals earning $75,000 and below and couples earning under $150,000. Their amount diminished until those making above $80,000 were no longer eligible. It's capped at $160,000 for married couples.

The program carried a $422 billion price tag — just over a fifth of the overall rescue package. Two waves of stimulus checks were issued last year as well: $1,200 and $600, respectively.

Congress is unlikely to back a large wave of stimulus payments anytime soon, given the economy displaying fresh signs of improvement. The measure, though, enjoys strong public support.

Centrist Democrats sought to cut eligibility on the third federal payment earlier this year to keep it from benefiting wealthier people who had kept their jobs. Biden agreed. Republicans are unlikely to support a fourth payment, citing a hefty price tag and renewed concern about the national debt.

Some Democrats, chiefly progressives, have called for recurring stimulus checks until the pandemic is over. Two months ago, a group of 10 Senate Democrats that included Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren backed ongoing payments tied to economic conditions.

Experts also noted that the checks were efficient at reaching people unable to access unemployment benefits. A report from the Economic Security Project, an organization advocating for cash benefits, said fourth and fifth direct payments would keep 12 million Americans out of poverty.

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