For more than two years, a Colorado restaurant owner’s Change.org petition for monthly stimulus checks has been quietly accruing signatures as more Americans come to support the proposal. By now, the petition has been signed by 2.75 million people, making it one of the largest on the site.
The petition outlines a proposal to send out $2,000 monthly checks to all American adults, and $1,000 to their dependents, for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the early months of the Biden administration, similar proposals garnered interest in Washington, DC. More than 80 legislators – 60 representatives and 20 senators, all Democrats – ultimately came out in support of a fourth stimulus check, with some proposals, such as Rep. Ilhan Omar’s (D-MN), coming fairly close to the recommendations put forth in the petition.
However, away from the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, the fourth stimulus proposals failed to gain widespread support, and as the recovery continued, the need for a fourth round of payments became less apparent. The fundamental idea of a “stimulus” measure is to stimulate the economy, ensuring that capital continues to circulate and keeping cash flows from freezing up. By most accounts, the first stimulus check was highly successful in this regard, and the second and third checks have also been defended.
However, following widespread vaccination in the United States and the end of lockdown measures, the economy has begun to recover without aid from stimulus checks. The July jobs report indicated that nearly one million Americans had found new employment. Unemployment fell to 5.4 percent, still nearly two percentage points higher than at the onset of the pandemic but the lowest rate since it began.
For this reason, the consensus on Capitol Hill is that a fourth check would not be a useful way to spend more money. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which created the third round of stimulus payments, set aside $450 billion for that purpose – more than 90 percent of which has since been distributed. A $2,000 measure, as the petition and Rep. Omar supported, would be more expensive still.
The Biden administration never actively came out in opposition to a fourth stimulus measure but quietly pushed back against the idea, preferring more targeted cash payments. For instance, in addition to the third round of stimulus payments, the ARPA approved six fully refundable Child Tax Credit checks to American households with children; the first of these checks were distributed in mid-July, and the second are due on August 13.