KEY POINTS

  • Congress will decide whether to include more stimulus payments in Biden's spending packages
  • Congress has sent out three rounds of checks since the pandemic began
  • It is unclear whether Congress will add more checks or recurring payments

A top White House official Tuesday said it would be up to Congress to decide whether to send out another round of stimulus checks to Americans this year. 

Over the weekend, a petition on Change.org that called for $2,000 monthly checks had garnered more than two million signatures. The petition is now listed on the site's top 10 petitions.

At a press conference, White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked whether President Joe Biden could include a fourth round of direct payments or monthly checks in one of his spending packages. 

"We'll see what members of Congress propose, but those are not free," Psaki replied

So far Congress has passed three rounds of stimulus payments for millions of Americans since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year. 

In March 2020, the CARES Act provided eligible recipients with $1,200 per individual, $2,400 per couple and $500 per child. 

In December 2020, a bipartisan $900 billion package included payments of $600 per single taxpayer, $1,200 per married couple filing jointly, and $600 per dependent. 

And in March, Congress passed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan that provided $1,400 per individual taxpayer, $2,800 per married couple, and $1,400 for young and older dependents. 

On Wednesday, the IRS distributed more than 1.1 million stimulus payments, 600,000 of which were sent via direct deposit. The new set of $1,400 checks marks the eighth batch sent since the American Rescue Plan was signed into law in March. 

A rebounding economy on the back of rising vaccinations has made analysts discount the likelihood of a fourth stimulus check, but there is still strong popular demand for it. 

"We need immediate checks and recurring payments so that we can keep our heads above water," Stephanie Bonin, a Colorado restaurant owner who posted the Change.org petition, said.  "Congress needs to make sure that we won’t be left financially ruined for doing our part to keep the country healthy.”  

Progressive lawmakers like Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have backed ongoing payments tied to economic conditions. Republicans are expected to oppose any further payments, and  Centrist Democrats had forced Biden to cut eligibility on the third round of federal payments to keep it from benefiting wealthier people who had kept their jobs.

While Biden is not looking at a fourth stimulus check immediately, his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan  proposes to extend the expanded child tax credit through 2025. The American Rescue Plan had expanded child tax credits for eligible families to $3,600 for each child aged 5 and under, and $3,000 for those aged between 6 and 17. Parents were to start receiving advances on the 2021 credit through periodic payments of $250 starting as early as July.

Democrats had called to make this credit a permanent one for American families.

"If passed, the families of tens of millions of children will continue to get regular payments," Psaki said during the press conference. "Obviously, we're continuing to evaluate what their needs are — to continue to get the pandemic under control, put people back to work, but we think that's a proposal with a long-term benefit."

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