It’s a new year and a new Congress, but some things haven’t changed: the pandemic continues, children and families across the country are in need, and relief isn’t coming quickly enough.
Congress should act on the bipartisan support for direct cash assistance and provide $2,000 payments to every adult and child immediately.
After Congress approved $600 direct cash payments in December, the first cash assistance approved since last spring, a broad swathe of politicians from both parties came together to say that wasn’t sufficient: more cash was needed to keep families afloat. Two Democratic Senate candidates—now elected Senators—supported $2,000 payments, as did President Biden and even the former president and many of his Republican allies in Congress. The House passed Rep. Neal’s plan to boost the $600 payments to $2,000.
Instead of capitalizing on that momentum to deliver for those in need, however, Congress continues to deliberate on another round of pandemic relief and economic stimulus. This delay endangers millions of children—disproportionately Black and Latino—living in families facing ongoing unemployment, hunger, housing instability, and illness.
The site of the slowdown is the Senate, where there are two paths for cash payments. The first path involves passing a bill according to the normal rules of the Senate. This could be done very quickly, but would require a bipartisan compromise to secure at least 10 Republican votes. The other path involves passing a bill with the Democratic majority alone through a process called budget reconciliation, which is time-consuming and, if pursued, could stretch into the spring.
Congress must break this stalemate and go big on direct cash payments. Congress should immediately pass a new round of $2,000 checks and ensure cash payments continue for the duration of the economic crisis. These ongoing payments should be modeled on the principles laid out in Rep. Ilhan Omar’s recent letter to President Biden; payments should:
- Amount to $2,000 for every adult, child, or other dependent;
- Continue until the economy recovers;
- Prioritize those who need it most and will spend it the quickest;
- Be available to all immigrant workers, refugees, and their families (both ITIN filers and mixed-status households);
- Include older dependents such as disabled and elderly dependents and those over the age of 16 still claimed as dependents;
- Add improved administrative outreach and communication at the state and local level to ensure families are aware of payments; and
- Ensure the IRS makes automatic payments available to all eligible households with better outreach to individuals left behind in previous rounds, including the underbanked and unbanked through pre-loaded EBT cards and those who had erroneous, delayed, or missing payments through improved casework assistance.
We can’t wait any longer for action. Families need $2,000 a month until the economy recovers.