Joe Biden's selection of California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate on Tuesday has breathed new life into speculation that Americans could receive a monthly check of up to $2,000 during the coronavirus pandemic.
That's because Harris, at the beginning of May, introduced legislation alongside Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Ed Markey, D-Mass., that would send $2,000 cash payments to every American who earns less than $120,000 until three months after the Health and Human Services Department has declared the public health emergency over.
Under the Monthly Economic Support Act, families of five could receive as much as $10,000, because the bill included an extra $2,000 payment for up to three dependents.
The proposal would bar debtors from collecting any of the money for repayments and would deliver the cash regardless of whether people have a Social Security number or filed taxes last year.
“The coronavirus pandemic has caused millions to struggle to pay the bills or feed their families,” Harris said in May. “The CARES Act gave Americans an important one-time payment, but it’s clear that wasn’t nearly enough to meet the needs of this historic crisis."
Biden's campaign did not respond to a request for comment about whether the presumptive Democratic nominee supports Harris' effort to provide $2,000 stimulus checks throughout the crisis.
Biden's plan to address the economic fallout of the pandemic says that lawmakers "could include cash payments to working families, unpaid caregivers, seniors, those with disabilities, and children, or a child allowance" as part of a broader relief effort. But it does not specify the frequency or size of checks that Americans could receive.
In the past, Biden has been a critic of universal basic income, describing individuals who support the policy as "class clueless."
"Every time someone would lose a job, my dad would say, 'You know, Joey, a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It's about dignity, it's about respect.' It's about your place in the community. It's about being able to look your kid in the eye and saying, 'Honey, it's going to be OK.' That's what it's about. Dignity," he said in 2018. "Getting an annual wage, you sit home and do nothing. You strip people of their dignity."
A petition began circulating in June for Biden to back the $2,000 payments, eventually obtaining more than 371,000 signatures.
The cost of the $2,000 stimulus checks would dwarf any other proposal passed by Congress so far; according to one estimate from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the payments would cost roughly $5.7 trillion.
Harris' proposal, which calls for the payments to be retroactive to March, has not garnered significant traction in Congress. The two sides broadly support a fresh round of one-time $1,200 stimulus checks for Americans earning less than $99,000. The $1 trillion aid package put forward by Senate Republicans at the end of July and the roughly $3 trillion legislation passed by House Democrats in May both include a second $1,200 payment, with the necessary qualifications nearly identical to the first stimulus check.
In both proposals, individuals who earn a gross adjusted income of up to $75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000 would receive the full $1,200 or $2,400 payments, respectively. For higher earners, the checks will be reduced by $5 for every $100 in income and phased out entirely at $99,000 and $198,000.
But a high-stakes stalemate over the next rescue bill appears likely to drag on for weeks, possibly into September.
Both Biden and Harris have endorsed the House-passed HEROES Act. Biden in June slammed Republicans as "so damn stupid" for not passing the legislation.
“Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats have been pushing hard as hell to fund local communities. The fact of the matter is that every town you work in … they have a budget and they cannot deficit spend," he said. "The only operation in the world that can do that is the federal government."
Harris has also urged her colleagues to pass the HEROES Act.
"The House passed the HEROES Act more than two months ago and instead of voting on it, Senate Republicans spent 10 weeks coming up with their own bill," she wrote in a tweet. "Their 'relief' bill cuts expanded unemployment benefits, fails to stop evictions, and doesn't include nutrition assistance."