Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders call for another round of $1,200 stimulus checks that are excluded from the latest COVID-19 relief bill gaining momentum in Congress

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday doubled down on her call for a fresh wave of $1,200 direct payments to Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing unemployment.
  • “If people don’t get UI assistance, and if they don’t get a stimulus check, then relief isn’t going to be felt in their lives, not in a substantive way,” Ocasio-Cortez told NBC News.
  • Rep. Rashida Tlaib and GOP Sen. Josh Hawley are also other members of Congress urging a second round of stimulus checks. 
  • Stimulus checks, as were distributed to millions of American taxpayers as part of the CARES Act in March, are missing from the latest $908 billion coronavirus relief package that’s currently making its way through Congress.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont echoed his colleagues’ demand by announcing that he won’t vote for the latest relief bill in the absence of “significant” changes, including adding in $1,200 checks.
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive lawmakers are calling for a new wave of $1,200 direct payments to be included in the $908 billion coronavirus stimulus package that’s gathering steam in Congress. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of Democratic leadership have signaled their willingness to move forward with the relief legislation, despite their previous calls for a federal assistance package of at least $2.2 trillion.

Ocasio-Cortez argued that while the framework of the new relief bill contains a slew of positive measures, she’s concerned that without unemployment insurance and direct payments, needy Americans won’t receive direct relief. 

“If people don’t get UI assistance, and if they don’t get a stimulus check, then relief isn’t going to be felt in their lives, not in a substantive way,” Ocasio-Cortez told NBC News’ Garrett Haake on Friday. “Will I support resources to hospitals and schools and firefighters? Absolutely. But I am extremely concerned that it’s not going to solve the immediate problems that people have.”

She added, “If you’re on the brink of an eviction or if you’re behind on six months of bills, you need that check, you need the check, and state and local funding isn’t going to help you.” 

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont followed up Ocasio-Cortez’s demand with his announcement that he won’t vote for the relief bill unless “significant” changes are made, including adding in $1,200 checks.

Read more: The $908 billion coronavirus stimulus deal could be the next one Congress passes: Here’s what’s in the relief package and what you could get

 

Other progressives such as Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan have also urged the inclusion of direct payments. And there is some GOP support for direct payments as well. Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri has signaled he won’t vote in favor of a relief package without stimulus checks and tweeted on Friday that he would “gladly” work with Ocasio-Cortez on this effort. 

The latest government rescue package was introduced on Tuesday by a bipartisan group of 16 senators. Congressional Democrats embraced the framework a day later, saying it should be the starting point in negotiations with Republicans after months of gridlock. Though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell favors a slimmer rescue plan, some GOP senators are lining up behind the compromise proposal. It still lacks legislative text, which is expected early next week.

Ocasio-Cortez, for her part, has long been an outspoken supporter of a new round of stimulus checks, but said previously that checks alone – without funding for state and local governments – would simply amount to a “sugar high.”

She’s also been sharply critical of the GOP push to shield firms and schools from legal liability if their employees are infected with COVID-19 on the job. Republicans have insisted on including a so-called liability shield in any relief bill, but many Democrats view the measure as a poison pill.

If Congress fails to pass a new relief bill before the end of the month, nearly 12 million Americans could lose their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas when their pandemic-related assistance expires. Millions of Americans would also be evicted from their homes when a national moratorium on evictions expires at the end of December along with student-loan forbearance. 

Pressure is mounting on Congress as Covid-19 cases spike across the country and the labor department reported on Friday that the pace of hiring has decreased for the fifth consecutive month as 10 million Americans remain unemployed. 

President-elect Joe Biden has insisted that any stimulus passed before he’s inaugurated in late January will be a “down payment” on a more comprehensive relief package he’ll seek to pass early in his presidency. 

“Any package passed in the lame duck session is not enough,” Biden said in a Friday statement. “It’s just the start. Congress will need to act again in January.”

As part of the CARES Act in March, Congress and President Donald Trump authorized $1,200 direct payments for millions of American taxpayers earning up to $75,000 annually, plus an extra $500 per child under 17. The cash amount diminished until being phased out for those making above $99,000. Married couples earning up to $150,000 a year also qualified for the full payment.

The Treasury Department and IRS distributed nearly 153 million stimulus payments this year, according to the Peter Peterson Foundation. The program carried a $292 billion price tag.

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