Biden Approves Cutting Number of People Eligible for a Third Stimulus Check

Individuals earning above $80,000 would no longer qualify.

By Joseph Zeballos-Roig • Mar 4, 2021

The Washington Post/Getty via BI

This story originally appeared on Business Insider

President Joe Biden has signed off on faster phaseouts for $1,400 stimulus checks, a step that would cut the number of people eligible for a third federal payment under the $1.9 trillion pandemic aid plan the House passed on Saturday.

Two Democratic aides told Insider that the president had approved lowering the income thresholds for people to receive a check. They spoke on condition of anonymity to share details of congressional discussions.

The aides also said that federal unemployment benefits would remain at $400 per week through the end of August.

Moderate Senate Democrats have pushed to prevent wealthier people from getting another check from the federal government. The House approved a bill on Saturday with higher eligibility caps for individuals and couples, a similar setup as in earlier pandemic aid packages.

Under the House's plan, the $1,400 payments phased out at $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for couples. Here's the layout of the new plan for direct payments:

  • Individuals: People making $75,000 and under would receive the full check, but those earning $80,000 and above would no longer qualify.
  • Married couples: Joint filers earning $150,000 and below would get the full payment, but those earning $160,000 and above would no longer qualify.

Some Democratic lawmakers embarked on an effort to target the direct aid provisions of the relief package away from higher-earning Americans.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire said Tuesday that she favored designing a new pot of money for broadband and hospitals in the stimulus plan, and suggested those initiatives could be financed partly by tightening stimulus-check eligibility.

"I think we could drop it below the $200,000 and still get households that really need it," she told reporters.

Related: How to Obtain the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) Under the Second Round of Covid Relief (Updated)

The emerging outlines of the package has garnered support from the president. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden was "comfortable" with the relief package that congressional negotiations is producing, adding he knows there are "tweaks at the margin."

"What his firm viewpoint is, is that it needs to meet the scope of the challenge, it needs to be the size he's proposed, it needs to have the core components in order to have the impact on the American people," Psaki said Wednesday.

A preliminary analysis from the left-leaning Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy indicated that around 16 million fewer Americans would get a third check in the new plan compared to the House version of the relief bill.

Some Senate Democrats were supportive of the move. "I think it's an appropriate way of bringing this to a successful conclusion," Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado told reporters on Wednesday.

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, pushed to extend the $400 federal supplement to unemployment benefits through September to avoid setting up a cliff in the August recess. But the new plan kept its end to the end of August.

"Adding $400 dollars per week to jobless benefits and covering gig workers and the self-employed is the boldest move Congress has ever taken to support jobless Americans during an economic crisis," he said in a statement to Insider. "I pushed hard for keeping that sixth month of benefits and am going to fight like hell to extend them in August."

Senate Democrats are set to advance the relief measure on Thursday, kicking off 20 hours of debate on the bill before an amendment process gets underway.

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