Concerns about a potential economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 Delta variant have prevented rumors from subsiding about both a fourth round of stimulus checks and monthly stimulus payments.

While millions of Americans would appreciate an infusion of cash, there has been more hesitance from Congress as the economy has shown improvements. In July, the jobless rate fell to its lowest level since the start of the pandemic and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said that he "can't imagine the economy is going to need a fourth round."

But there are two recent signs that have kept some hope alive for direct payments.

One move came on March 30, when 21 senators sent a letter to President Joe Biden calling for "recurring, smartly-targeted, auto-stabilized direct payments" in the administration's next economic recovery package. All 21 senators were Democrats, suggesting that Biden would have difficulty persuading Republicans and some Democrats to support such a measure.

The other move is ongoing:  a petition on Change.org for $2,000 a month for every American. The petition is approaching 2.84 million signatures and closing in on 3 million.

It's unclear if any such overtures would yield any real action on Capitol Hill. 

Meanwhile, U.S. officials said on Thursday that states can pay unemployment benefits past the upcoming Sept. 6 expiration date using leftover money from the $350 billion in pandemic funds that Congress previously allocated in the American Rescue Plan to state and local governments. The move affects more than 7 million Americans who could immediately lose their unemployment aid after Labor Day.

There still may be some concerns in the fundamentals of the economy. 

Before the start of the pandemic, a top economic indicator was how Americans' credit card debt had sharply accumulated. The financial situation for many Americans then worsened in 2020 by a severely weakened economy due to lockdown measures. Direct payments were considered essential as Federal Reserve data from 2019 showed that 41% of households with ages 25 to 64 could not cover a $400 expense. 

The relief would arrive in March 2020 as worries grew about the economy. Congress moved forward with The Cares Act, which involved most single adults receiving $1,200, while families with children received more.

A second round of stimulus checks was pushed in December 2020 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which involved $600 per adult and $600 per child. A third round came with the American Rescue Plan in March. It involved $1,400 per adult and $1,400 per child.

Yet despite some positive comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell about an improving economy, there are still some cautious concerns about the long-term outlook.

“We’re not simply going back to the economy that we had before the pandemic,” Powell said Tuesday. “We need to watch carefully as the economy continues to get through the pandemic and try to understand the ways that the economy has changed and what the implications are for our policy.”

The Delta variant could mean payments will be needed. Goldman Sachs economists recently slashed their forecast for third-quarter GDP growth to 5.5% from 9.0%.

“The impact of the Delta variant on growth and inflation is proving to be somewhat larger than we expected,” said Goldman Sachs chief U.S. economist David Mericle.

Could universal basic income eventually be an answer to boosting the economy? It was a question economist Paul Krugman answered in mid-April in a New York Times column about businessman Andrew Yang.

"It’s both too expensive to be sustainable without a very large tax increase and inadequate for Americans who really need help," Krugman wrote.