White House Suggests It Could Sign Off on More Narrowly Targeted Stimulus Payments

January 26, 2021 Updated: January 26, 2021

The Biden administration may be open to adjusting eligibility levels for pandemic stimulus payments to ensure that the money is provided to families who need the funds the most, said President Joe Biden’s top economic advisor.

“When it comes to the checks, we put forward a proposal that … passed the House with 275 votes—44 Republicans voted for it,” Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, said in a televised interview on Tuesday morning. He was making reference to a bill passed in the House in December that included $2,000 direct payments, which was supported by former President Donald Trump.

“Certainly, if there are ways to make that provision, and other provisions, more effective, that’s something that we’re open to, that we’ll have conversations about,” Deese added.

On Monday, Biden acknowledged that his $1.9 trillion package—including $1,400 payments—may not pass in Congress as a number of Republicans and some Democrats in the Senate have balked at the price tag. A bipartisan group of lawmakers is hoping to reduce the cost of the package by reducing the eligibility for the stimulus payments.

Deese and other White House officials said the administration held a call with several Democrats and Republicans to discuss changes to the plan on Sunday.

“It was a good call, it was a constructive conversation. And this is part of the process,” Deese said during Tuesday’s interview. “The president put forward a plan, we’re now engaging with members of Congress from both parties to consult with them.”

Biden suggested Monday that the terms of the $1,400 stimulus checks may change.

“For example, you know I proposed that we—because it was bipartisan, I thought it would increase the prospects of passage—the additional $1,400 in direct cash payment to folks,” Biden said during a news conference. “Well, there’s legitimate reason for people to say, ‘Do you have the lines drawn the exact right way? Should it go to anybody making over X-number of dollars or why?’ I’m open to negotiate those things.”

But Biden acknowledged that the terms are a “bit of a moving target” at this point.

The move drew criticism from some leftist Congress members, including Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.).

Individuals who earn up to $75,000, or $150,000 for married couples, were eligible for the $600 direct payments sent out over the past several weeks. Households were also eligible for an additional $600 for each child who qualifies.

After that threshold, payments start to phase out at a rate of $5 per $100 in additional income. Those who earned more than $87,000 or $174,000 for a couple were ineligible.