A 4th Stimulus Check? It’s been almost a year since the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 delivered $1,400 stimulus checks to American taxpayers. A failure by Congressional Democrats to pass further stimulus packages resulted in the longest gap in stimulus packages since the beginning of the pandemic, with the first checks going out in March of 2020 and the second in December that same year.
President Joe Biden faced immense pressure from progressives within his own party in April of last year when 75 members of Congress pressed him to issue regular stimulus checks until the pandemic was officially over. Somehow, though, the White House has managed to stave off criticism for failing to deliver more economic stimulus since.
In an April letter, legislators argued that the United States was experiencing the “worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” with millions of Americans unemployed or forced out of the workforce. As a result, they said, recurring stimulus payments should be made to help Americans “cover basic expenses.”
Now that most Americans have gone back to work and things have returned somewhat to normal, however, rapidly rising inflation and an overheating economy have raised questions about the mythical fourth stimulus check that never happened.
Why Some Are Pushing for More Stimulus Checks
According to data from a December census survey, over one-quarter of Americans struggled to pay their regular household expenses the week before they were polled.
While many Americans have returned to work, unemployment is still higher than the pre-pandemic level of 3.5%. With 2.3 million fewer people at work than before the pandemic, unemployment currently sits at 4.2%. A supply chain crisis also means that suppliers cannot meet domestic demand and many businesses still struggle to operate at fully capacity as a result of labor shortages and supply problems.
The extended child tax credit scheme implemented by the American Rescue Act is set to run out, too, with the remaining six months of payments due to be issued in a single lump-sum tax refund payment for those who file their 2021 taxes.
Combined with inflation at a 40-year high (outpacing wage increases) and incoming interest rate increases from the Fed, calls for more stimulus checks are increasing once again.
4th Stimulus Check Why It Probably Won’t Happen
No matter how many petitions are signed, however, the chances of a fourth stimulus check seem slim.
First of all, there is no political will. While progressive Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez were very vocal in their support for recurring Universal Basic Income-style payments early last year, little has been said from “The Squad” and other ultra-progressive Democrats on the matter in many months.
President Joe Biden has also made no indications that a fourth stimulus check is on the way, and with his difficulty passing his Build Back Better legislation, it seems unlikely that he will make any such suggestion. While Democrats have vowed to revive the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better deal, any revised version would need to contain massively scaled back spending plans to appease moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin who killed the bill in December citing concerns about rising inflation.
Beyond political will, the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic also means that stimulus payments would be an unnecessary evil as most Americans now have the opportunity to safely get back into the work place.
Unless a new variant ravages the United States and causes mass layoffs and a fresh round of lockdowns, a fourth stimulus package looks extremely unlikely.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and report on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.