- Senate Democrats want to make permanent a new stimulus program that would temporarily provide checks to families.
- Sen. Sherrod Brown said he wants to tie it to a plan for postal banking.
- Under the House stimulus plan, families could receive a monthly check of $250 or $300 per child starting on July 1.
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Senate Democrats said on Thursday they would seek later this year to turn a proposed emergency federal check program for parents into a permanent piece of the American social safety net.
“As soon as we pass the Recovery Act, we will fight to make it permanent and to make sure they can get the checks monthly if they choose,” Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio told reporters on a press call.
Brown was referring to a plan to dramatically revamp the child tax credit, a top Democratic priority in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package. It aims to provide $3,600 over the year to families with young children aged 5 and under, and send $3,000 to those with kids between 6 and 17.
Under the House proposal, families could either receive a monthly check of $250 or $300 per child starting on July 1. The payments would start phasing out for individuals earning $75,000 and couples making $150,000. Researchers at Columbia University projected that it could cut the child poverty rate in half.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated the provision’s cost at $120 billion.
Brown, chair of the Senate Banking Committee, added he would unveil a plan allowing the Federal Reserve to establish bank accounts at post offices or credit unions for people who don’t have one at a commercial bank. The step would allow users to deposit their paychecks or receive federal benefits, such as the monthly payments.
“It costs so much to be poor and people get hit with check cashing fees, and preyed on by payday lenders,” Brown said. “We want to build all of that together with some permanence.”
Around 8.4 million households were unbanked in 2017, according to a national survey from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Democrats are rushing to enact President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan by March 14, the deadline for enhanced unemployment insurance programs to start expiring. House Democrats set a Friday vote for the relief legislation, and the Senate is expected to take it up next week.
Republicans are slamming the package as a wishlist of progressive priorities, though polls indicate it has strong support from the public. Some GOP senators assailed the monthly check program as a form of welfare.
“Sending $250/$350 per month/per child to everyone, with no work requirement, is welfare,” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said in a recent tweet. “Being pro-family means being pro-work. Our expanded Child Tax Credit idea is a far better approach.”
Rubio previously supported a plan to allow families paying payroll taxes instead of income taxes to claim the child tax credit, a move aimed to bolster employment.
At least one Republican senator supports distributing monthly checks to families. Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah released another child-benefit plan that would provide larger cash payments to families, financed by merging several federal initiatives into one and repealing a state and local tax deduction known as SALT.