By Andrew Keshner
United States President Joe Biden unveiled a $1.9-trillion dollar rescue plan this month that would cut a new round of $1,400 direct checks meant to top off the recently distributed $600 payments, and would be higher than the first two rounds of checks.
“We will finish the job of getting $2,000 in cash relief to people who need it the most,” Biden said, adding that the “$600 already appropriated is simply not enough.”
For one portion of the population numbering in the millions — adult dependents — Biden’s proposed plan would actually start the job of cash relief. And this round of checks would expand payments for households whose family members have different immigration status.
Here are two more ways they are different from the checks issued by the former Trump administration:
In the first two rounds of direct payments, starting with the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March and then December’s $900 billion plan, the government would pay for dependents under age 17 . But that left out a lot of dependents, according to advocates.
In fact, these rules may have left out more than 15 million people ages 17 and up, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
That’s roughly five million 17- and 18-year-olds, approximately four million college students aged 19 to 23, 400,000 disabled people aged 19 and up, as well as over five million adult relatives cared for by relatives like their adult children.
Other proposed bills since the CARES Act have tried incorporating adult dependents into the stimulus check mix.
The HEROES Act, which passed in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, had direct checks for adult dependents. So did the HEALS Act, the August bid from Senate Republicans.
The changes in dependent rules would have offered “even more support for families who care for vulnerable adult dependents,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said at the time.
It’s not guaranteed that there will be money for adult dependents this time. Biden’s stimulus proposal, just like the HEROES Act and the HEALS Act, is an opening bid in the ongoing Capitol Hill back-and-forth on money for COVID-19 relief.
The same goes for possible payments to families with mixed immigration status.
Biden wants direct checks for everyone in mixed status families, be they Social Security card holders or not.
The CARES Act authorized payments for citizens and green card holders, but if they were married to someone without a Social Security number, neither person was allowed to receive a stimulus check. Immigrant advocates have challenged the matter in court.
The $900 billion relief package approved in December tweaked the rules. It said in a “mixed status” family, the Social Security card holder spouse and any children with Social Security numbers would get paid, but not the other non-citizen spouse without the number. The laws also allowed retroactive payment on the $1,200.
There are 16.2 million people in families like these, according to the National Immigration Forum. That includes 5.5 million citizens or green card holders who live with at least one relative who is undocumented and uses an individual taxpayer identification number to pay the Internal Revenue Service.
Millions of immigrants and immigrants have wrongly missed out on past relief packages, including many who have been “on the front lines of the pandemic,” said Jorge Loweree, policy director at the American Immigration Council.
“People should not be penalized for the immigration status of the person they choose to marry. President-elect Biden’s proposed relief plan would change this short-sighted and discriminatory approach to COVID relief by extending relief to all mixed status families,” he said.