Sens. Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Ed Markey introduced a bill Friday to give most Americans $2,000 a month during the coronavirus pandemic, as historic job losses leave millions scrambling to cover bills.
The legislation would provide a direct payment to people who make up to $120,000 throughout the crisis and for three months after it. Married couples filing jointly would receive $4,000, and parents would get $2,000 per child for up to three children. The plan would be retroactive to March.
Harris, D-Calif., Sanders, I-Vt., and Markey, D-Mass., released the plan on the day the government jobs report for April showed the wreckage left by business closures designed to slow Covid-19 infections. The U.S. lost a record 20.5 million jobs for the month as the unemployment rate spiked to 14.7% — the highest level since the Great Depression.
The bill would try to iron out what critics called issues with the $1,200 direct payments to individuals included in the $2 trillion stimulus package passed in March. The senators said it would ensure "every U.S. resident" gets money, even if they have not filed a recent tax return or do not have a Social Security number. It would also bar debt collectors from taking the relief money, and deliver payments to homeless and foster youth.
The proposal, which likely carries a hefty price tag, is unlikely to gain much traction in a Republican-held Senate growing increasingly wary of spending taxpayer money to blunt the health and economic damage created by the outbreak. Even so, it sets a marker for debate as Congress considers how next to offer relief to Americans devastated by the pandemic.
In six 2020 battleground states — Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — 31% of likely voters said they could afford food, housing and other essential items for less than a month if they lost their source of income, according to a CNBC/Change Research poll released this week. Among people who make less than $50,000, 47% said they could cover their cost of living for less than a month if they lost their income.
The same survey found 74% of respondents approved of continuing direct payments until the country can safely resume economic activity.
Congress in the coming weeks will mull how best to support individuals and the economy as businesses in most of the country remain closed to respond to the public health crisis. As they look to the next rescue bill, Democratic congressional leaders have pushed for at least one more round of direct payments to Americans.
Asked Thursday if Americans should expect more money than the initial $1,200, President Donald Trump said "there is talk about something happening and we'll see what — what's going on."
He added that "the greatest thing that could happen" is to "get our country open again and get it going again and have people have these great jobs again."
Governors such as Republican Brian Kemp of Georgia have faced backlash for moving to reopen certain businesses even as Covid-19 infections rise.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., is the third sponsor of the bill.