Yang-backed group wants $2,000 coronavirus relief checks split into installments

But Biden, who's expected to offer more details of his plan Thursday, seems inclined to get the funds distributed quickly

Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang isn't staying on the sidelines of the economic relief debate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang isn't staying on the sidelines of the economic relief debate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted January 11, 2021 at 6:28pm

President-elect Joe Biden's push to increase direct payments to U.S. households to $2,000 in a new round of pandemic relief is getting a rethink from advocates who believe it's a better idea to distribute the money on an installment plan.

Humanity Forward, an advocacy group founded by former Democratic presidential contender Andrew Yang, said Monday it is working with a group of lawmakers on a bill that would offer $500 monthly payments for four months.

Such a plan would move pandemic relief a step closer to what was the centerpiece of Yang’s campaign: a “universal basic income” provided through $1,000 monthly checks to all adult U.S. citizens.

“A form of recurring relief will ensure families can plan ahead and they can spend the money as they get it,” said Greg Nasif, the group’s spokesman. If $2,000 comes in one lump sum, he said, “people may be more likely to hold onto that money.”

He said the bill could possibly include “automatic stabilizers” to keep payments flowing after four months if the economy doesn’t sufficiently rebound.

Nasif declined to say which lawmakers were behind the measure. “We know we need to work with members on both sides of the aisle to get something done," he said.

Last month, the group worked on a bipartisan bill sponsored by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., that would have offered one-time payments of $1,000 per person, including children and adult relatives who are dependents. “We were proud to work with a large bipartisan coalition,” Nasif said.

When Democrats won control of the Senate this month after Georgia’s runoff races, Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York said one of his chamber’s first priorities would be to “deliver the $2,000 checks to the American families.”

But the precise size and shape of those payments have yet to be determined.

Congress last month passed a coronavirus aid package as part of an omnibus spending measure that included rebate checks of up to $600 per individual, with the amount phasing down as annual income for single filers exceeded $75,000. Lawmakers of both parties have tried to increase those payments in recent weeks.

But that effort comes with a hefty price tag. A House-passed bill from late last year, which would boost the size of the initial December checks to $2,000 per adult as well as each dependent, would cost $463.8 billion, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. That’s more than half the entire cost of the COVID-19 aid measure that President Donald Trump signed into law last month.

Nasif said the new bill could cost anywhere from $400 billion to $500 billion, depending on how it’s written.

Upping the payments to $2,000 in one fell swoop may be the simpler and more politically popular route. And so far, Biden, who's expected to offer more details of his economic plan on Thursday, seems inclined to want the funds distributed quickly.

"$600 is simply not enough when you have to choose between paying rent or putting food on the table," Biden tweeted Sunday. "We need $2,000 stimulus checks."