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Another Round of Stimulus Checks? More Relief on Table as Unemployment Surges

Congress, White House weigh options to put money in pockets of struggling families

Record Unemployment Rise statistics illustrated by charts and diagrams on digital LCD display

E+ / Getty Images

En español | With unemployment rising at an alarming rate because of the coronavirus pandemic, lawmakers are starting to think about how the government could offer Americans financial support beyond a one-time check of $1,200 or less. Both the House of Representatives and the White House have signaled they are open to the possibility of additional stimulus payments for families.

Among the proposals Congress may consider in the next round of stimulus funding is a bill that would offer individuals $2,000 a month for up to a year. Under the proposed Emergency Money for the People Act (EMP), every person age 16 and older who earns less than $130,000 annually would receive $2,000 per month for at least six months. Families would receive an additional $500 per child for up to three children. Unlike the CARES Act payments, adults claimed as dependents such as college students or people with disabilities would also qualify for the $2,000 monthly payments.

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Separate from the EMP proposal, the Trump Administration also is “studying very carefully” whether the federal government should send more payments to individuals, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told reporters during a briefing this week. President Trump this month said the administration was considering another round of stimulus payments.

The nation's unemployment rate could be a key factor in lawmakers’ decisions. Early Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that more than 3.8 million people filed new claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending April 25. That means that over the six weeks since the nation temporarily closed businesses to deter the spread of the coronavirus, more than 30 million people have lost their jobs.

While many of these people might start to return to work once offices reopen, it will take much longer than that for the nation's unemployment rate to return to 3.5 percent, where it stood before the pandemic. Economists expect unemployment to leap into double digits when April's rate is released on May 8.

"As states begin the process of reopening and Americans return to work, today's unemployment report reflects once again the hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said. “Looking ahead, as workplaces reopen, we must ensure that individuals transition from unemployment back into the workforce. Key to this process will be workplace safety."

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Most older Americans favor additional stimulus payments

While it is too soon to know whether any stimulus payments will become part of the next stimulus package, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi this week told MSNBC that lawmakers have to “think in terms of some different ways to put money in people's pockets.” She said that some type of ongoing payments from the government may be one of those options.

According to a new AARP coronavirus poll, 83 percent of adults age 50 and older support the inclusion of additional stimulus payments in the next round of legislation. The survey question did not ask respondents specifically about the EMP or other legislative proposals, but rather asked about additional stimulus payments in general.

Another choice the next round of stimulus legislation will have to address is whether to include assistance for state governments. Each state is responsible for maintaining its own trust fund to pay unemployment benefits to workers who have lost their jobs. The unanticipated and unprecedented demand for these benefits because of the temporary shutdowns has strained state budgets at the same time they are losing revenue.

The National Governors Association (NGA) has asked Congress to include $500 billion in assistance to the states in the next round of legislation. In a letter to lawmakers, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who are chair and vice chair of the NGA, respectively, said states need the money to replenish depleted state unemployment trust funds and to fund technological improvements and staffing capacity increases for state unemployment agencies.

"States and local governments need robust support from the federal government as we navigate the response to this pandemic and to help foster the economic recovery that is ahead,” they said.

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