WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — More than 150 of the country’s top economists are calling on the government to provide ongoing stimulus checks as the United States continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
In an open letter published by the Economic Security Project, the 156 economists also asked for increased unemployment benefits and money for state and local governments.
The letter argues regular checks to individuals could help boost economic activity and provide stability for struggling households. The economists say consistent payments could increase or decrease based on the current economic situation.
“Direct cash payments are an essential tool that will boost economic security, drive consumer spending, hasten the recovery, and promote certainty at all levels of government and the economy — for as long as necessary,” the economists wrote in the letter.
Influence Watch labels the Economic Security Project a left-of-center initiative. In the past, the group has supported the idea of a universal basic income program. As part of the proposal, working adults who earn under $50,000 per year would receive $500 per month, according to Influence Watch.
Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang tweeted support for the proposal saying, “Yes – Congress please listen to 156 economists that recurring stimulus checks are necessary right now.”
The letter did not propose a specific amounts for the recurring checks.
The letter continued: “Even after businesses start to re-open and jobs begin to come back, there will be significant economic fallout, and demand will continue to lag if people don’t have money to spend,” the letter said. “Regular direct stimulus payments tied to economic indicators will help families stay afloat and drive economic activity.”
This comes as a second round of stimulus checks is being debated by congressional lawmakers. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump again provided support for additional relief telling Nexstar Media Group’s Washington correspondent Jessi Turnure Americans could expect another check ‘soon.’
“We are working on another stimulus package, and that will take place…very soon,” Trump said.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he’s considering a fresh round of direct payments, noting they are especially helpful for those earning $40,000 a year or less. He wants a liability shield to run for five years, retroactive to December 2019.
“Liability reform, kids in school, jobs and health care,” he said. “That’s where the focus, it seems to me, ought to be.”
Democrats have proposed a far more ambitious aid approach in the $3 trillion House-passed-coronavirus rescue package, setting the outlines of a robust debate over how best to help Americans as COVID-19 cases surge in hot spots nationwide, threatening public health and economic livelihoods.
Congress is away for a two-week recess, but the contours of the debate are taking shape before lawmakers resume session July 20. Deadlines for many programs expire by the end of the month.
McConnell’s earlier decision to hit “pause” on new relief has infuriated Democrats, especially as state and local governments clamor for aid to prevent worker layoffs.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement Tuesday that McConnell “has created needless uncertainty and pain for millions of families who are still reeling from the public health and economic crises.”
Schumer said, “Senator McConnell ought to be working across the aisle to prevent mass evictions, a new hunger crisis, and the layoff of more essential state and local government employees — all things that will happen if Republicans continue to delay action or act stingily.”
The earlier rounds of aid were the biggest in U.S. history. And while aid was approved almost unanimously, it is now dividing the parties. Many Republicans view the outlay as excessive, and they want to avoid another round of big-ticket spending. Democrats argue that more aid is needed, and their bill includes new worker health and safety protocols to ensure a safe reopening.
While the two sides share many common goals in boosting public health research toward treatments and a vaccine, the difference in the economic aid to Americans is stark.
For example, Republicans mostly oppose the $600 weekly boost to unemployment benefits, arguing it’s a disincentive to work because some employees earn more by staying home than they would on the job. Democrats say it’s a lifeline for struggling Americans trying to make ends meet.
Democrats also provide more money in their bill to prevent evictions: $100 billion in rental assistance and $75 billion for homeowners paying mortgages. The $2 trillion coronavirus aid package’s 120-day federal eviction moratorium on certain rentals expires at the end of July. The Democrats’ bill would extend it through March 2021.
Democrats are wary of the liability protections being proposed by Republicans. Instead, their bill includes other priorities, such as funding to shore up the struggling U.S. Postal Service, which they see as another lifeline for Americans, and to provide $50 monthly stipends toward broadband services for households with laid-off or furloughed workers to stay connected online.
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, said McConnell’s idea for another round of direct $1,200 payments is no substitute for extending the enhanced unemployment benefits.
“The next coronavirus relief package must extend supercharged unemployment benefits,” Wyden said in a statement.
He said the jobless aid has “kept the economy afloat and allowed millions of families to pay the rent and buy groceries.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report