The series of stimulus checks and the other support measures by both the federal and state governments are coming to a close. And in offering most average American households close to $10,000, the federal government effectively initiated a massive experiment in safety net policy. But the situation on the ground has changed with the easing of the pandemic.
Supporters had backed the huge and quick outpouring of cash, maintaining that it has succeeded in easing the acute economic hardship triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. But skeptics, mostly the Republican camp, have termed the policy expensive and wasteful.
The three rounds of the stimulus check were sanctioned exactly a year apart. The first was sanctioned in April 2020, the second in December 2020, and the third and the final stimulus check in March 2021 under the American Rescue Plan Act.
The money did indeed control the economic hardship caused by the pandemic and the economic downturn that followed.
Analysis by the Census Bureau argues that the two latest rounds of aid significantly improved Americans‘ ability to purchase the bare necessities and also pay their household bill. It also helped reduce depression and anxiety. The largest benefits went out to the poorest sanctions of the household and those with children.
Among households with children, there have been reports of acute food shortages before the stimulus checks were issued. But post the payments, it fell by an incredible 42 percent between January and April. A wider mark of financial instability was down by 43 percent. Among all families, there was a marked slide in cases of depression and anxiety with a reported reduction of around over 20 percent.
Even as the economic rebound was helped along with various forms of aid, the greatest slide in the measure of hardship was with the introduction of the $600 stimulus checks that reached the majority in January 2021, despite being sanctioned in the previous month.
Even more effective was the third stimulus check, or the economic impact payment that began to be distributed in March 2021 under the American Rescue Plan Act. This comprehensive bill was signed by President Biden and contained much more than the direct cash infusion that has directly reached Ameican through the pandemic and later.
Stimulus Checks Dry Up Post-2021
The period after the end of the Child Tax Credit stimulus check has been one marked by the absence of any form of federal aid except for the pending payments. The aggressive opposition by the Republicans forced President Biden to backtrack over any further stimulus checks.
State support formed the major chunk of support in 2022 with over twenty states moving in with various forms of support that ranged from stimulus checks to tax rebates to various forms of tax relief.
But states do not have the same cash received as the federal administration, and it has fallen woefully short of the relief that the residents required to pull them through 2022.
State Stimulus Checks Continue In Modest Form In 2023
Even the modest state support has dried up in 2023 and the stimulus checks in the first quarter were remnants of payments declared and sanctioned in the last quarter of 2021.
These spillover payments dried up in the second quarter. But some states have stepped in a modest form in the second quarter but have limited the payments to focused groups who are desperately in need of cash infusion.
It has helped that inflation have eased in the second quarter of 2023 and prices are down modestly. But a section of people continue to struggle as prices of essentials are nowhere near the levels it was before the pandemic.
Even local governments have started pilot programs that will send aid to a select set of residents as a test case. Cambridge in Massachusetts has gone a step further and has expanded their pilot program with a guaranteed income program. The city will soon begin accepting applications from the residents of Cambridge. Selected recipients will start receiving their stimulus checks under the guaranteed monthly stimulus check program from the city of Cambridge worth $500 each for 18 months.
That is a significant step by the city to ensure that the economically deprived are given a minimum guaranteed support, and it could be scaled up if it is successful.
The Rise Up Cambridge program aims to help households with at least one child. The program has been funded by a $22 million commitment from Cambridge. This new program is based on the city’s earlier initiative called the RISE pilot program.
The latest program addressed the growing economic divide in the city and also its racial inequities. The program uses direct cash assistance as a compelling anti-poverty strategy. It permits residents the freedom to manage their financial goals and needs.
Qualifying For The Guaranteed Monthly Stimulus Check
The official site of the Cambridge stimulus check declares that the city is using an approach that will positively impact some of the more vulnerable residents even as they struggle for economic equality, and access to better opportunities, including in the field of education. There is also support for improved health post the COVID-19 pandemic.
Applicants for the guaranteed monthly Cambridge stimulus check must be at least eighteen years. They must also be a resident of the city and have at least one person below twenty years in the household.
The household income must be not more than 250% of the federal poverty level. Applicants must also confirm the income requirements that depend on the household members.
For instance, a two-member household must not have an Adjusted Gross Income of over $49,300 annually. The threshold income for a three-member household must be a maximum of $62,150.
The threshold increases with the addition of each member to the household. Recipients who are selected will be in line for a guaranteed monthly stimulus check of $500 from Cambridge. The payment will be for eighteen months and the recipients will get a total of $9,000. Around two thousand families will come under its net finally.