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Stimulus update: Rep. Richard Neal, Democrats propose $3,000-per-child benefit

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A COVID-19 stimulus-linked bill out of Rep. Richard Neal’s office calls on the Internal Revenue Service to send American families at least $3,000-per-child every year.

Part of President Joe Biden’s and Democrats’ $1.9 trillion relief package, Neal’s proposal would see families receive up to $3,600 per child under 6 and $3,000 for every child between 6 and 17. According to The Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the bill before its unveiling Monday, the payments would decrease for single parents earning more than $75,000 or couples earning more than $150,000 combined.

The groundbreaking proposal, which would include monthly checks up to $300 per young child beginning in July and lasting a single year, comes at a time when the pandemic has left millions unemployed and more children in poverty.

“The pandemic is driving families deeper and deeper into poverty, and it’s devastating,” Neal, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement to MassLive Sunday. “This money is going to be the difference in a roof over someone’s head or food on their table. This is how the tax code is supposed to work for those who need it most, and so long as I am Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, it’s what you can expect to see from us.”

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, nearly one in six American children — almost 12 million — lived in poverty in 2018. While data from Pew Research Center showed that figure dipping over 2019, the economic fallout of the pandemic saw monthly poverty rates increase from 15% to 16.7% between February and September 2020, according to the Columbia University Center on Poverty & Social Policy. Researchers at Columbia estimated in October that the pandemic may have led to an additional 2.5 million children living in poverty since May.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, one of 10 Republicans calling for a compromise $618 billion relief bill, recently called for sending even bigger checks to American families — $4,200 for children up to 6 and $3,000 for children 6 to 17. But the former Massachusetts governor and presidential candidate proposed paying for the checks by eliminating the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare program and making other cuts to tax credits that assist working families, the Post reported.

The Democrats’ proposal, which is pushing through Congress in an annual budget reconciliation process that doesn’t require bipartisan support, keeps TANF and tax credits for children and working families intact.

Similar to the previous stimulus checks in COVID-19 relief packages, most of the child benefit payments would be directly deposited into Americans’ bank accounts according to their information on file with the IRS. The bill would establish an online portal letting families update their income information, should their income drop and they become eligible for payments, the Post reported.

Details of the proposal come as lawmakers debate the income thresholds for those eligible to receive $1,400 stimulus checks also included in Biden’s proposal.

Some lawmakers are calling for capping the eligibility at $50,000 for single taxpayers and $100,000 for married couples, and Biden has said he’s open to negotiating eligibility. The Senate recently overwhelmingly passed an amendment restricting “upper-income” Americans from receiving checks, but lawmakers did not define upper-income.

In two previous stimulus bills, Americans earning $75,000 or less and married couples earning up to $150,000 received full stimulus checks of $1,200 and $600; adults earning up to $99,000 and couples earning up to $198,000 received incrementally smaller checks based on income.

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