Biden says $1,200 stimulus checks ‘may be still in play’ in Covid relief talks

President-elect Joe Biden on Friday said that another round of coronavirus stimulus checks for U.S. families “may be still in play.”

“I think it would be better if they had the $1,200 [payments to families],” Biden said when asked at a press conference to respond to criticism about a new Covid relief plan revealed this week as a starting point for the latest round of negotiations on Capitol Hill.

Biden added: “And I understand that may be still in play. But, I’m not going to comment on the specific details. The whole purpose of this is, we’ve got to make sure people aren’t thrown out of their apartments, lose their homes, are able to have unemployment insurance [that] they can continue to feed their families on as we grow back the economy.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have backed a bipartisan $908 billion relief plan as a basis for talks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

On Friday, Pelosi told reporters “there is momentum” toward lawmakers striking a deal

Biden has endorsed the plan as a “good start,” but he has promised to push for more aid when his administration takes charge. At the press conference, Biden would not say if he has spoken to McConnell.

The proposal does not include a second $1,200 direct payment to most Americans. Pelosi and Schumer have called for another stimulus check for months as part of trillions in aid they hoped to approve.

When the Democratic leaders yielded ground and asked to start talks around the $908 billion measure, they noted that “we and others will offer improvements.”

Some congressional progressives have questioned how much relief a bill would help if it fails to include direct payments or a robust unemployment insurance supplement. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said he would not support a bill unless it included a stimulus check or scrapped Republican demands for a liability shield, according to NBC News.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., told NBC News she would be open to supporting the package. Still, she criticized a lack of direct payments.

The bipartisan plan includes funding for a second round of Paycheck Protection Program small business loans, relief for state and local governments that may have to cut essential services and money for schools. It also includes money for transportation and vaccine distribution.

Skeptics including Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez worry it will not put enough money directly into Americans’ pockets. While it authorizes a $300 per week enhanced federal unemployment benefit, the sum is half of the $600 weekly payment that Congress passed in March. The provision expired in July.

Biden has previously endorsed a significantly larger relief bill that passed the House earlier this year. He noted at the press conference Friday that the $908 billion proposal “is just a down payment.”

Still, Biden signaled a willingness to compromise, and said he’s confident that the stalemate in Congress will give way to a deal in time to “keep us from going off the edge here.”

“If you insist on everything, you’re likely to get nothing on both sides,” Biden said.

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