Save the checks for those who need them most

February 3, 2021 12:01 am

The U.S. Capitol. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden wants to supercharge the sputtering economy, vaccinate millions of Americans against COVID-19, and help people by issuing another round of stimulus checks. He and members of Congress are grappling with the best way to do that, and Republicans have offered less-expensive alternatives to the president’s $1.9 trillion plan. 

I have a suggestion that could ease the strain on government debt and unite Republicans and Democrats alike: Don’t send me any more stimulus cash. 

Plenty of Americans, in fact, probably would agree they’re doing just fine now. The people receiving federal checks this time around, instead, should still be out of work, still fighting poverty, and still wondering about their own survival – financially and otherwise. More than 444,000 have died from COVID-19 in the United States.

My wife, aka “The Boss,” gets skittish anytime I even hint at our personal economics in print. Yet Michele agreed I could discuss our situation – within reason – to make a broader point about who needs help now, nearly 12 months after this awful pandemic reached the United States. 

So here goes: 

We have no major debt, not even a car note (our newest ride is a 2012 Honda). The Boss works fulltime, toiling away at home. We have health care through her employer. 

Meanwhile, I cobble together regular writing assignments from The Virginia Mercury and other publications. We can pay bills and still save money.

Simply put: Why give us any more federal stimulus? We’d just deposit the money, anyway. 

As reported this week: The pandemic has frightened Americans “into saving more, and many recipients of the previous stimulus checks banked much of that money. Personal savings have surged by over $1 trillion since the pandemic began and now total more than $11 trillion, by far the highest in U.S. history.”

I know I could simply donate a new federal check to charity. Yet that altruistic act, alone, won’t shore up the federal budget the same way as reducing the number of recipients this time around. 

The Boss and I count our blessings. We know plenty of folks aren’t as fortunate, including some who live in the commonwealth.

They’re people like Kacey Moss, a 29-year-old single mother of two who lives in North Chesterfield. She’s been out of work since May 2019, in a job where she cleaned homes. She’s had trouble finding a new job since she’d have to get child care for her toddler son. 

Moss lives with her mother, and she receives government assistance that helps pay for basic necessities like shoes, diapers and wipes. Moss said an overdue hospital bill led to a lien on an earlier stimulus check. Still, she’d appreciate another round. 

It would pay for “anything my kids might need,” Moss told me this week. 

Charles Robins has recently regained his cooking-dining services gig at Virginia Tech, after he was furloughed after Thanksgiving. The 34-year-old works 30 hours a week, and he earns about $1,200 a month before taxes.

Robins, who also volunteers with the grassroots group Virginia Organizing, told me a new round of stimulus checks would be a lifeline and help with overdue bills. He also suffers from angina and diabetes. 

“For low-income folks, it would be excellent,” said Robins, who lives in Christiansburg. “The middle class and the upper class, they’re all set.” 

Negotiations between the president and Congress are evolving. An administration spokeswoman said this week, according to The Washington Post, the White House would consider narrowing eligibility for a new round of stimulus payments, but not lowering the amount below $1,400 per person. 

Biden met with a group of Senate Republicans late Monday to discuss competing proposals. Those members want a scaled-down overall package that costs around $600 billion. 

What Biden shouldn’t do is cave on other parts of his plan, including increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. It’s been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009. Emergency aid for struggling local and state governments also is vital.

Nor should the president accept complaints from Republicans that his proposal is “too costly.” 

These are the same folks – now suffering from amnesia – who gladly busted federal coffers under then-President Donald Trump in 2017. They approved tax cuts that nonpartisan analysts said overwhelmingly benefited the nation’s wealthiest people. 

Where people of both parties can agree is that plenty of Americans, including me, don’t need yet a third round of stimulus checks since the pandemic began. We can work from home, make ends meet, and wait out this crisis.

Other people can’t. The government should target new stimulus checks to the people who may fall into the abyss without them.

Help them, Mr. President.

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Roger Chesley
Roger Chesley

Longtime columnist and editorial writer Roger Chesley worked at the (Newport News) Daily Press and The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot from 1997 through 2018. He previously worked at newspapers in Cherry Hill, N.J., and Detroit. Reach him at [email protected]