Opinion: One $1,200 stimulus check won’t cut it. Give Americans $2,000 a month tax-free to fire up the economy

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Since the coronavirus struck our shores, my focus has been on keeping Americans safe and ensuring working people don’t get left behind. Their struggles today are greater than ever. Too many have suffered job losses, shrinking income, isolation, and health issues — all while caring for children and other loved ones.

The one-time $1,200 stimulus check that many Americans are now receiving under the CARES Act was a good start, but it does not go far enough as this quarantine enters its second month. Rent is still due, credit card bills keep coming in, utilities still need to be paid, our phone plans haven’t gotten cheaper, we still need to buy groceries to feed our families. How far do politicians think one $1,200 check can stretch?

Every American age 16 and older who earns less $130,000 per year will receive this money.

That is why Representative Ro Khanna (D-CA) and I introduced the Emergency Money for the People Act, which will provide almost every American $2,000 per month until employment levels reach pre-coronavirus levels. Every American age 16 and older who earns less $130,000 per year will receive this money tax-free.

Congress recently passed three different bills in response to the coronavirus. They included trillions of dollars of assistance for individuals and businesses, and while I supported all three, we immediately started noticing that many of Rep. Khanna’s constituents in Silicon Valley and my constituents in Youngstown, Ohio were still falling through the cracks.

I spoke to a woman who is low-income and receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI); she takes care of five other people in her home, yet was not eligible for the $1,200 check. I heard from a constituent on disability who has custody of her children, but the $1,200 check went to her former spouse. I talked to a college freshman living by himself, independent of his parents, but he did not qualify for any assistance.

This is just a small snapshot of the what real Americans are going through every day. They deserve a fair shake. They deserve to be cut in on the deal.

These payments will be guaranteed for a minimum of six months, continuing until the U.S. employment rate reaches pre-coronavirus levels.

A one-time payment is simply not enough to sustain most Americans for the length of this crisis. One of the most important things we can do right now is to put cash in the hands of average hard-working Americans. Consumer spending makes up roughly 70% of U.S. gross domestic product, so how will our small businesses survive if their customers don’t have money in their pockets? The old strategies have failed us. This is an unprecedented crisis, and it is time for government to respond in an unprecedented way.

Up to $5,500 a month for families

How is the Emergency Money for the People Act different from the $1,200 provided in the CARES Act? First, this is not a one-time payment. These payments will be guaranteed for a minimum of six months, continuing until the U.S. employment rate reaches pre-coronavirus levels. Second, payments will be increased to $2,000. Third, unlike with the CARES Act, college students and adults with disabilities will receive the payments even if claimed as a dependent by someone else. Finally, realizing that not everyone has a bank account or a permanent home address, the money will be made available in more ways, with payments coming through direct deposit, check, pre-paid debit card, or mobile money platforms such as Venmo, Zelle, and PayPal.

Read: Lacking federal coordination, U.S. governors team up on when to reopen economy

More: These Americans were left out of the stimulus package and still need help to weather the coronavirus pandemic

We wanted to make sure more Americans would be eligible for these payments, so we made it easy for people to both qualify for and actually receive the money. Every American age 16 and older who makes less than $130,000 per year would qualify to receive $2,000 each month. Married couples can earn up to $260,000 and would receive $4,000 per month. Families with children could receive up to $1,500 per month, $500 for each child (capped at three children). That means that a married couple with three children would receive $5,500 per month.

Further, these payments will not count as income for any families that are eligible for income-based state or federal government assistance programs such as Medicaid or SNAP, and people who have no earnings, were or currently unemployed would also be eligible for assistance.

The coronavirus has impacted the lives of every single American, but it will not defeat us. Members on both sides of the aisle in Congress and President Donald Trump must come together in the fourth COVID-19 relief package to expand direct support for our people. The Emergency Money for the People Act will provide more money for more Americans and should be signed into law immediately.

U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

More: The next 45 days are the ‘most critical period in U.S. financial history,’ says stock-market expert who profited in 1987 and 2008 crises

Plus: Fed should pay every American more, let hedge funds and billionaires ‘get wiped out,’ says Social Capital CEO

Originally Published on MarketWatch

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