Biden economic advisor pushes back against restricting eligibility for stimulus checks

  • A White House economic advisor Jared Bernstein argued the stimulus checks are “better targeted” than many people assume.
  • It comes as lawmakers debate restricting the eligibility for stimulus payments to lower-income Americans.
  • Some economists argue that the checks helped shore up finances of people unable to get unemployment insurance.
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A top economic advisor to President Joe Biden pushed back Wednesday on the idea of limiting stimulus check eligibility.

During a Bloomberg conference, White House economist Jared Bernstein argued the federal payments are “better targeted than I think most people realise,” and added “it’s not just people at the bottom who need the money.”

He said many people in the middle-class have suffered pandemic-related pay cuts without necessarily losing their jobs.

Bernstein’s remarks come as Congress debates the size and scope of Biden’s relief package, which includes $US1,400 stimulus checks among other provisions. But the plan has triggered intense GOP opposition, and Democrats are gearing up to circumvent them in a process called reconciliation. They are setting the stage to approve the package with only 51 Democratic votes.

Republicans and some Democrats are seeking a more targeted distribution of direct payments, an idea that Biden recently suggested he is open to. It’s a key demand of a bipartisan group of 16 senators that met with the White House over the weekend.

“There’s legitimate reason for people to say: ‘Do you have the lines drawn the exact right way? Should it go to anybody making over X number of dollars or why?'” Biden said at a Monday press conference. “I’m open to negotiate those things.”

Some economists are critical of the stimulus checks because they have been sent to higher earners who didn’t suffer job losses. A new study released Tuesday from Opportunity Insights, a nonprofit organisation, indicated families earning below $US75,000 quickly spent their $US600 check that was authorised last month by Congress,

But those making above that income level tended to save their payment, which doesn’t strengthen the flagging economy. Still, other economists like Claudia Sahm argue that the stimulus checks helped shore up the finances of jobless Americans who did not receive unemployment assistance during the pandemic.