Biden caves to right-wing Dems — agrees to further limit eligibility for COVID direct payments

Biden caves to right-wing Dems — agrees to further limit eligibility for COVID direct payments
U.S. Department of Energy from United States, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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In the face of pressure from a faction of conservative Senate Democrats, President Joe Biden reportedly agreed Wednesday to limit eligibility for direct relief payments by accelerating the phase-out of $1,400 checks proposed in the emerging $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Under the new eligibility structure, according to the Washington Post, individuals earning $75,000 or less annually and couples earning $150,000 or less will still receive full $1,400 payments, as proposed by the relief package passed by the House last week.

But under the latest framework pushed by conservative Democrats and accepted by Biden, the phase-out of the $1,400 checks will end at $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for joint filers—meaning individuals and couples who earn more will receive nothing, not even partial payments. The House bill proposes (pdf) ending the phase-out at $100,000 in yearly income for individuals and $200,000 for couples.

Among the Senate Democrats who pushed for the quicker phase-out were Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).

Progressives have argued that because eligibility for the checks could, for many, be based on the income reported on their 2019 tax returns, people who were doing relatively well before getting hammered by the pandemic will be denied direct relief.

"This is not targeting," Matt Bruenig, founder of the People's Policy Project, said last month of earlier efforts to restrict eligibility. "It is the illusion of targeting, an illusion that will end up hurting tens of millions of people who are currently in need but weren't in 2019."

Robert Cruickshank, campaign director at advocacy group Demand Progress, pointed out Wednesday that under the new eligibility framework, "some people who got checks when Trump was president won't get them now that Biden is president."

"There is no upside to this, only the massive downside of handing Congress to the Republicans next year," Cruickshank added. "Madness."

This article originally appeared on Common Dreams.


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