President Joe Biden wants to go big: an economic aid bill totaling $1.9 trillion, including $1,400 stimulus checks.
But many Americans who got the first two rounds aren’t guaranteed to get a check this time. Last month the White House indicated it might lower the income thresholds and cutoffs for the direct payments.
On Thursday, the Washington Post reported that Democrats are considering sending $1,400 direct payments to individuals earning $50,000 or less, and $2,800 to married couples earning $100,000 or less. Those families would also get $1,400 per child dependent. The White House did not respond to Fortune’s request for comment on the income thresholds being discussed.
Those proposed income thresholds, as outlined by the Washington Post, are significantly lower than the two stimulus payments ($1,200 in March and $600 in December) that President Donald Trump signed into law in 2020 with bipartisan support. In 2020, full stimulus payments went to individuals earnings $75,000 or less, and to married couples filing jointly with incomes under $150,000. The two previous rounds of stimulus checks in 2020 completely phased out checks for individuals earning above $99,000, and joint filers with no children at $198,000. (It’s currently unclear what Democrats’ phaseouts will look like.)
But it’s important to keep in mind that income thresholds for stimulus checks last year were based on 2019 adjusted gross income (AGI). It’s expected that Biden’s income thresholds will also use AGI, which is usually well under your pretax income. The median U.S. AGI was $43,614 in 2018, according to the IRS.
There is support from both sides for lowering the income thresholds. Indeed, earlier this week 10 Republican senators unveiled a plan that included $1,000 stimulus checks, which would start to phase out for individuals making $40,000 per year and completely cut off for those making $50,000 per year.
While Biden is set on $1,400 checks, senators from both parties have discussed lowering the income levels to help target the payments so they go to individuals who are in financial need and will spend them on necessities—not to those who are more affluent. Some economists and recent studies suggest more “targeted” income levels would better benefit the overall economy (and provide a greater return on investment). “You want to maximize your bang for your buck, so to speak,” Brett Ryan, senior U.S. economist at Deutsche Bank, recently told Fortune. “You want to target those with the largest marginal propensity to consume in order to have those dollars go back into the economy and have the largest impact. You don’t want that check just to be saved.”
While income thresholds might drop, payments for children are expected to rise. The Democratic plan, as outlined by the Washington Post, would send $1,400 stimulus payments per child dependent. That would mark a significant increase from the 2020 direct payments: The March 2020 CARES Act sent $600 for each minor dependent, as did the December 2020 stimulus package.
From here it could take weeks for a package to pass. Democrats, however, are already laying the groundwork. Earlier this week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer initiated the reconciliation process—a key step if they plan to pass something along the lines of Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief proposal. By using reconciliation, Democrats could move the package through the Senate even in the face of united opposition from all 50 Senate Republicans. In that scenario, Schumer would need the support of all 50 Democratic senators as well as Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote.