Why Democrats want to pass a package including $1,400 stimulus checks and $400 unemployment benefits by March 14

Democrats have made it clear: Their aim is to get a massive economic aid package on President Joe Biden’s desk by the middle of March.

That deadline could seem arbitrary, but for Democratic lawmakers, it’s a crucial time frame to extend much-needed benefits as the pandemic continues to leave millions of workers without a job. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said as much last week, when she told reporters the House hopes to pass the relief package, including $1,400 stimulus checks and extensions for jobless benefits, by the end of February and have it ready for Biden’s signature “in time to offset the March 14 deadline where some unemployment benefits will expire.”

On March 14, a slew of pandemic unemployment benefits expire, including weekly $300 enhanced unemployment benefits. Other programs set to expire on that date are Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)—which expands who is eligible for unemployment benefits (for instance, gig workers and self-employed Americans)—and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits (PEUC)—which grants an extra 24 weeks of jobless benefits to recipients once they exhaust their state benefits. In all, 20.4 million Americans are benefiting from some form of unemployment insurance.

Back in 2020, Democratic and Republican lawmakers failed to get a stimulus package and jobless benefit extension signed into law before the $600 enhanced benefit phased out in July. That signing didn’t come until Dec. 27, a day after the lapse of PUA and PUEC. This time around, onlookers are more confident that a bill can get signed into law before the benefits lapse. Indeed, economists like Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi “think the next fiscal relief package will be passed by mid-March,” Zandi recently told Fortune, “just in time to pick up the slack from the fading support provided by the $900 billion relief package passed last December.”

The likelihood of expediency this time around is largely due to Democrats’ ability to push some legislation through the Senate using budget reconciliation, a process that requires only a simple majority compared to the 60 votes it would normally take to prevent a filibuster. (Democratic leaders have already begun the reconciliation process.)

The Democratic-controlled House is planning to vote on the package by the end of the month. In a letter to Democrats, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the House will be in session through the end of next week, and that “the House may need to remain in session through the weekend next week to complete consideration” of the stimulus package.

However, the final details of that bill are still unclear, and its size and line items could change. President Biden would like the package to provide billions for things like vaccines and state governments, while also extending unemployment benefits and upping enhanced UI payments from $300 in the December package to $400 per week. Other items like raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour seem less likely to make it through Congress.

Democrats also plan to include $1,400 stimulus checks in the next stimulus package. Last week the House outlined its direct payment proposal, which would send full $1,400 stimulus checks to individuals earning up to $75,000, and a $2,800 check to couples filing jointly with incomes under $150,000. Incomes above that level could still get reduced payments; however, the payments would phase out completely for single filers earning more than $100,000, and for couples filing together at $200,000. House Democrats confirmed last week that these income cutoffs and ceilings are based on filers’ adjusted gross income (AGI).

As proposed, this direct payment plan would also send $1,400 checks to eligible filers for each dependent. Unlike the last rounds, this time it would include both child and adult dependents.

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