Senate Democrats call for automatic stimulus checks and extra unemployment benefits

·Reporter
·3 min read

As President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package makes its way to the Senate, a group of Democratic senators is already pushing for automatic stimulus checks and additional unemployment benefits in the next recovery package.

"This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads," the senators wrote in a letter to the president obtained by Yahoo Money. "Families should not be at the mercy of constantly-shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions."

Read more: Here's what to do if you haven't gotten your stimulus check

The effort is led by Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) who posted the open letter. So far, nine senators have signed on, including Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Senate Banking Committee Chair Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Alex Padilla (D-CA) among others, but others on Capitol Hill may join before the letter is officially released.

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 28:  (L-R) Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speak before the full committee markup of the tax reform legislation on Capital Hill November 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. Republicans in the Senate hope to pass their legislation this week and work with the House of Representatives to get a bill to President Donald Trump before Christmas.   (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
(L-R) Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speak before the full committee markup of the tax reform legislation on Capital Hill November 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

Last week the House passed the president's stimulus package that includes $1,400 stimulus payments and $400 weekly unemployment benefit supplements. The Democratic proposal looks to build on that and make such payments automatic in the future by tying them to economic indicators like the unemployment rate.

Wyden has been pushing for additional unemployment benefits to be tied to economic conditions, but now the inclusion of direct payments is new. Previously, progressives including Sanders have called for $2,000 monthly direct payments during the pandemic.

Read more: Here's who qualifies for the extra $100 in weekly unemployment benefits

"These two forms of payments are effective together," the letter said. "Unemployment insurance has replaced lost income for millions who have lost their jobs... Direct payments are crucial for supporting struggling families who aren’t reached by unemployment insurance."

After getting renewed this winter, several key unemployment programs are set to expire in the spring, meaning up to 11.4 million workers could lose their base unemployment benefits if no stimulus deal is passed, an analysis by The Century Foundation found.

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The effectiveness of those two relief provisions and their popularity among the public are two other reasons lawmakers are pushing for these so-called automatic stabilizers to become law.

Read more: Here's what's in Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion 'rescue plan' that could help your wallet

"Automatic stabilizers will give families certainty that more relief is coming, allowing them to make the best decisions about how to spend their relief payments as they receive them," the letter said. "Families shouldn’t have to worry about whether they’ll have enough money to pay for essentials in the months ahead as the country continues to fight a global pandemic."

Biden hasn't yet revealed what would be included in his next recovery package, which is expected be released after the current stimulus deal is passed.

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Denitsa is a writer for Yahoo Finance and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @denitsa_tsekova

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