WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Maine U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree on Thursday joined 56 members of Congress in urging the Biden administration to include recurring cash payments in any future COVID-19 relief package.
Pingree and the other members wrote a letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, illustrating the dire need for recurring relief to Americans struggling due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“It is clear that during this unprecedented time in our nation’s history that we must take additional unprecedented action,” the members wrote. “We kindly request that your incoming administration consider including support for recurring cash payments in your future economic relief plans. Recurring payments would provide a long-term lifeline to struggling Americans for the duration of this deadly pandemic.”
The letter also calls for parity of payments for adults and dependents, and inclusion of all immigrant workers and their families.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve heard from countless Mainers who are on the brink of economic collapse. Many have lost their jobs or had their hours cut, and any savings they had have dried up as this crisis drags on. We know direct are one the most effective tools to deliver economic relief,” Pingree said in a statement.
Biden's proposed $1.9 trillion relief package has received pushback in Congress from Republicans, including Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who says a package of that size is "premature."
“While I support prompt additional funding for vaccine production, distribution, and vaccinators, and for testing, it seems premature to be considering a package of this size and scope," Collins said last week. “Less than a month ago, President Trump signed into law a $900 billion COVID relief package that our bipartisan group played a key role in negotiating. This funding is in addition to the nearly $4 trillion that Congress had provided previously for COVID relief. It appears that approximately $1.8 trillion of that money has yet to be spent."
Biden's proposal seeks to speed up vaccine production and provide financial support to those struggling amid the prolonged economic fallout. The proposed plan includes $1,400 stimulus payments—on top of the $600 provided in the recent COVID-19 bill, bringing the total to $2,000.
But some Democratic members, Pingree included, say that's not enough relief for Americans.
“A one-time payment of $2,000 is a short-term band-aid for people who have monthly bills coming due," Pingree said. "Mainers need recurring monthly payments to put food on their tables, keep their lights on, and weather the darkest days of this crisis.”
Pingree has repeatedly joined calls for Congress to provide robust stimulus checks during this crisis. In December, she joined 58 Members of Congress in pushing for stimulus checks in Congress’ next COVID relief package. Pingree supported the increase of December’s stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 and voted for the House’s standalone bill to increase payments accordingly.
In their recent letter to Biden and Harris, the members say any future relief package should include recurring cash payments that:
- Continue until the economy recovers with equal payments to adults and dependents
- Prioritize those who need it most and will spend it the quickest,
- Go to all immigrant workers, refugees, and their families (both ITIN filers and mixed-status households)
- Include older dependents such as disabled and elderly dependents and those over the age of 16 still claimed as dependents
- Add improved administrative outreach and communication at the state and local level to ensure families are aware of payments
- Ensure the Internal Revenue Service makes automatic payments available to all eligible households with better outreach to individuals left behind in previous rounds, including the underbanked and unbanked through pre-loaded EBT cards and those who had erroneous, delayed, or missing payments through improved casework assistance
Read the full letter here:
On Sunday, top Biden officials and a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators joined together over a call to discuss the Biden administration's proposed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.
Both of Maine's Senators Susan Collins and Angus King were on the call.
King said the bipartisan conversation was a "strong first step in the right direction."