COVID relief checks are only controversial in Congress. Americans overwhelmingly support bigger stimulus checks.

protest stimulus
Protesters rally demanding economic relief during the coronavirus pandemic in New York City on August 5, 2020.

  • Voters are clear: Americans need $1,400 now. The only place this is controversial is Washington.
  • 72% of voters in four key states with moderate senators support the payments, a new poll shows. 
  • Putting money into peoples’ pockets is wildly popular. Politicians who oppose increased relief could pay a political price. 
  • Carrie Joy Grimes is chief executive of WorkMoney, a nonprofit organization helping Americans get through the economic catastrophe caused by the COVID pandemic. 
  • This is an opinion column. The thoguhts expressed are those of the author. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Everyone has seen the staggering numbers that illustrate the toll of the US COVID pandemic: millions laid off, hundreds of thousands dead, tens of millions still struggling. But these are not just numbers. 

COVID-19 shutdowns forced Lori Taylor’s husband to stay home from his coal mining job in Morgantown, West Virginia for part of last year. That missing income set her family back, and they still can’t quite figure out how to get their bills paid. “It just doesn’t add up,” she said.

In Anchorage, Alaska, Helen Roberts lost her childcare business as a result of the pandemic, putting her family into a hole that’s getting harder and harder to climb out of. “I’m raising three teenagers in a two-bedroom apartment and without that extra stimulus, I can’t afford to keep the power on, let alone pay for our rent,” she said.

There are tens of millions of working and middle class Americans in the same boat as Taylor and Roberts, and tens of millions more who agree with them. But their voices are not being heard in the Washington conversation. 

Right now, Congress is debating how to provide relief for millions of Americans who are suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. The issue of who gets relief payments and how much has turned into a political football – but only in Washington. 

The feelings of a vast majority of Americans are clear: we need more stimulus. It’s symbolic of our broken politics that even as tens of millions of Americans struggle to get through the economic catastrophe caused by the pandemic, Congress is bickering over details. Meanwhile, families and working people across the US are falling further and further behind.

America wants stimulus checks 

An American Rescue Plan that meets the moment needs to put an extra $1,400 into everyday Americans’ pockets – and it needs to get the money out quickly. This is not controversial outside of Washington. In all corners of the country both voters who cast ballots for Donald Trump or President Joe Biden support the proposal. 

My nonprofit organization WorkMoney recently commissioned a poll of voters in four of the states – Alaska, Arizona, Maine and West Virginia – that could prove decisive in whether Americans get much-needed relief.

The poll, conducted by Hart Research, showed that voters in these states could swing the issue overwhelmingly back towards the extra relief money. 72% of voters want Congress to increase relief checks to $1,400 for all individuals in families earning less than $150,000. In Alaska and West Virginia, more than two-thirds of voters support the payments. In Arizona and Maine, 3 out of every 4 voters do.

The data show what we hear from our members every day: that putting money in the hands of ordinary Americans is only controversial in the halls of Congress. On Main Street, it is overwhelmingly popular. A WorkMoney petition calling for Congress to approve more stimulus right away has already been signed by more than 1 million people.

A recent study found that, as of two months ago, the Federal Reserve had spent $2.7 trillion and counting just in direct securities purchases to prop up the market. Increasing relief by $1,400 for everyone who got the earlier stimulus would cost less than $500 billion, bringing the total cost of all the COVID stimulus payments to around $1 trillion. It’s great that retirement accounts are thriving, but is it not worth a fraction of what we spent on the stock market to help millions of families and businesses in the real economy?

From Alaska to Maine and everywhere in between, Americans are facing mountains of debt, bills piling up, sick family members, food insecurity, potential eviction, and aren’t able to make mortgage or car payments. They need support – just like they’d need in an earthquake, tornado, or hurricane – and they need it now. 

‘We need them urgently’ 

We recently launched a $1 million campaign to pressure members of Congress in 12 key states to stop playing politics with the lives of everyday Americans’ struggling to get through this pandemic. 

Members of Congress must understand what’s really happening in everyday Americans’ lives. Increasing relief payments isn’t a partisan issue. Our members demanding increased payments include Trump voters, Biden voters, and everyone in between. No matter who they voted for, they all want to see things get better. Washington’s focus on political side-taking is a distraction from the real problems: how we recover from this pandemic and get America back on its feet.

Back in West Virginia, Lori Taylor is all in on pressuring members of Congress to pass more payments. “We need them urgently,” she said. “I know so many more people across West Virginia have it even worse than we do.”

COVID-19 has brought on a once-in-a-generation crisis. Anyone who thinks the way out is by putting less money into fewer Americans’ pockets will be on the wrong side of history. And if they don’t listen to everyday Americans now, they will on Election Day. 

Carrie Joy Grimes is chief executive of WorkMoney, a 1.4 million member nonprofit organization that is helping Americans get through the economic catastrophe caused by the COVID pandemic. 

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Trump just cost jobless workers one week of federal unemployment assistance after he failed to sign the relief bill by midnight on Saturday

trump pentagon
President Donald Trump has said he wants the relief bill to include $2,000 stimulus checks for Americans.

  • President Donald Trump did not sign the latest coronavirus relief legislation before midnight on Saturday, costing jobless workers one week of $300 federal unemployment benefits.
  • State agencies can only distribute benefits for weeks the bill is enacted, meaning the delay could cause the unemployment benefits to be distributed for 10 weeks instead of the intended 11.
  • About 14 million Americans have also lost unemployment benefits, as two federal programs expired on Saturday.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump did not sign the latest coronavirus relief legislation by midnight on Saturday, a move expected to cost jobless workers at least one week of $300 federal unemployment benefits.

Trump had suggested he might reject the $900 billion stimulus package, which passed in both chambers of Congress earlier this week, unless it includes $2,000 stimulus checks for Americans.

The bill currently includes $600 checks, along with the $300 weekly federal unemployment insurance.

“I simply want to get our great people $2,000, rather than the measly $600 that is now in the bill. Also, stop the billions of dollars in ‘pork,'” Trump tweeted Saturday morning.

The president has not made clear whether he will sign the legislation, but the delay puts other federal assistance programs in danger and could prove costly for Americans whose unemployment benefits were supposed to restart December 26.

By not signing the bill before the end of day Saturday, Trump has effectively cut a week of $300 federal unemployment benefits for jobless people, according to Michele Evermore, a policy expert at the National Employment Law Project.

But she cautioned it’s hard to project without federal guidance how the holdup would affect other unemployment programs.

“I’m not entirely sure how this will be interpreted – at the very least, we lose a week of the $300,” Evermore told Insider. “No matter what, if he doesn’t sign, next week it goes down to 10 weeks of an extra $300.”

The $300 federal unemployment supplement included in the bill is scheduled to end on March 14, a date that will not change based on when the bill actually becomes law.

Depending on when the bill is signed, labor agencies could restart the payments during the first week of January. Because states cannot provide benefits for weeks that precede the approval of the bill, the $300 supplement may only be in place for 10 weeks, rather than the intended 11.

About 14 million people are at risk of losing unemployment benefits, as Saturday was the last day that two federal unemployment programs distribute their payments. They are the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for gig workers and freelancers and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for people who exhausted state benefits.

In tweets on Saturday, including one sent hours before midnight, Trump again called for the relief bill to include higher stimulus checks.

Trump could still sign the package in the following days, though he has not indicated whether he will do so.

Read the original article on Business Insider