Democrats Debate Eligibility for $1,400 Relief Payments

February 7, 2021 Updated: February 7, 2021

Several top congressional Democrats say they are eyeing tightening eligibility requirements for the next round of COVID-19-related relief payments.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters over the weekend that the thresholds for the next round of payments might be adjusted.

“I think that’s what most people have raised the issue on, both in the Senate and in the House. I, frankly, think that that is correct,” Hoyer said, according to The Hill. “I don’t want to speculate on the figure or a figure, but I think that may well be under consideration for adjustment from the one that was passed in December.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who offered the amendment to tighten the eligibility, told the news outlet that he wants to change the threshold. Under his proposal, no person making more than $75,000 or a couple making $150,000 per year would get a payment.

Last week, the Biden administration confirmed that it will try to stick with the $1,400 payments. Some complained that the administration and various Democratic officials promised $2,000 stimulus payments, after $600 payments were sent out several weeks ago as part of a $900 stimulus package, which was signed by former President Donald Trump.

“We’ve had something of a referendum on our priorities. For example, that was what the Georgia Senate race was all about—was making sure that those $2,000 checks got out,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said.

House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (R) (D-Md.) during a press conference calling for gun control legislation at the U.S. Capitol
House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) during a press conference in a file photograph. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Manchin proposed that individuals who make up to $50,000 and couples who make up to $100,000 would get the full amount. After reaching that threshold, the payments would be reduced and eventually be phased out at $75,000 for an individual and $150,000 for a couple.

“It depends who you want to talk to. But I think the point of the amendment is it’s negotiable so we can try to get some folks on board,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told reporters, according to The Hill, in reference to the eligibility changes.

Meanwhile, self-described democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) suggested in a tweet the move to reduce the eligibility for stimulus payments is foolhardy.

“Unbelievable. There are some Dems who want to lower the income eligibility for direct payments from $75,000 to $50,000 for individuals, and $150,000 to $100,000 for couples. In other words, working-class people who got checks from Trump would not get them from Biden. Brilliant!” he wrote on Twitter.

Speaking with The Hill, Sanders added a caveat in saying that he doesn’t want to “see people making $300,000 or $400,000 benefit from” the stimulus payments.