The Automatic Boost to Communities (or ABC) Act is cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal and is a long shot to say the least.
On the heels of Congress’ approval of a $1.9-trillion plan to address the fallout from COVID-19, U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib on Tuesday reintroduced legislation that, if passed, would provide monthly payments of $2,000 to every American during the crisis.
“Our residents shouldn’t have to play a waiting game on the question of their survival,” said Tlaib, D-Detroit.
“If the last year has shown us anything, it’s that our families are in dire need.”
The measure, which Tlaib calls the Automatic Boost to Communities (or ABC) Act and is cosponsored by U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington State, is a long shot to say the least. Democrats hold only a slim majority in the House, and the Senate, where a 60-vote threshold is needed to pass most bills, is evenly divided at 50-50.
But the legislation may continue a developing discussion in Congress over the possibility of someday authorizing direct, recurring payments such as those proposed in last year’s presidential campaign by current New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang.
On Tuesday, Tlaib said she was encouraged when other Democrats during last year’s debates over COVID-19 relief checks began to discuss the possibility of recurring payments during the pandemic and its aftermath, though they broke down over when they would be triggered and their amount.
“I would love to have that conversation on what that looks like,” she said.
Specifically, the ABC Act would call for every American, including noncitizens in the country for at least three months, to receive, through direct bank deposits or prepaid debit cards, $2,000 a month for as long as the pandemic is considered a national emergency. For a year following that, payments of $1,000 would continue each month.
In order to pay for it — and get around rules regarding how congressional analysts calculate the nation’s debt — the legislation calls for the U.S. Mint to create two trillion-dollar coins that would then be purchased by the Federal Reserve, which helps manage the nation’s money supply. The money would then be moved into the U.S. Treasury to cover the cost of the payments — with more coins being minted if needed.
Tlaib, who represents a congressional district with one of the highest percentage of impoverished constituents in the nation, said it would help families desperate to find work and pay bills because of the economic slowdown and provide a needed injection of cash to small businesses everywhere.
The bill also calls for the creation of an Emergency Responder Corps to contact at-risk and vulnerable communities to make sure they get access to the funds.
The COVID-19 relief bill passed by Congress recently provided checks of $1,400 to many Americans but it phased out as an individual’s or family’s income got higher. And while many progressives may cheer the idea of recurring payments, it’s far from clear that Democrats representing more moderate constituencies would embrace it.
One argument that has been raised against government injecting cash directly into the economy has been that it could trigger higher levels of inflation.
If the government were to simply print money and give it out, that argument goes, prices and wages would increase, lowering the real value of the currency.
But Tlaib said Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has said that rampant inflation is not a particular worry with the economy still hurting from the pandemic and the associated slowdowns. Still, Powell’s comments were given around a much-less dramatic proposal than Tlaib’s.
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