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  • Writer's pictureMichael McAuliff

GOP Senate Coronavirus Payments Exclude Poor People

Updated: Mar 20, 2020

The Republican Senate's plan to help Americans and businesses cope with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic leaves out the poorest people and pays well-off people better that working-class earners.

The measure includes a means test to make sure rich people don't benefit, with payments of up to $2,400 going to a couple, plus $500 for each child. It starts phasing out above incomes of $150,000, and goes to zero at $198,000.

But it also includes lower-limit restrictions, excluding poor people, or reducing what they get.

The restriction says that if someone did not earn at least $2,500, they get nothing. You also get nothing if your gross income was less than the standard deduction.

And an analysis by Paul N. Van de Water at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that it also limits the payout for the working poor.

If a family paid a little bit in taxes, they'd get $600 payouts.

Take two families of four, with incomes of $35,000 and $150,000. Both families have two children, who receive $500 each. The adults, however, are treated very differently. Each adult in the higher-income family gets $1,200, while each lower-income adult receives just $600. This means the less financially vulnerable family gets $1,200 more than the family that has a tougher time making ends meet.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did not answer emailed requests for explanations of the lower-income restrictions.

Van de Water, in his post on the provision, hammered it.

"That should be unacceptable on both humanitarian and hard-headed economic grounds," he wrote. "People with the lowest incomes are the most at risk during downturns; they are likelier to see their earnings fall and seldom have a substantial financial cushion to rely on. Excluding them or giving them less will mean that more households will have trouble paying rent and putting food on the table."

Not all Republicans seemed to be onboard with the plan to help the better-off more.


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