PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) — With some Democrats pushing for additional stimulus payments and many people calling for recurring payments until the COVID-19 pandemic is over, a recent Boston Herald records request found that more than 1 million CARES Act checks have gone unspent, including 72,252 in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania has the fifth-highest number of uncashed stimulus checks out of all states in the U.S., following California, Florida, Texas, and New York, according to IRS data obtained by the Herald.
The IRS told the Herald that the number of unspent checks reflects “the number of people who either refused to accept, paid back or [have] not cashed the stimulus checks they received from the IRS as a result of the CARES Act that was signed into law on March 27, 2020.” This data reflects the most recent available accounting, which comes from March 30, 2021.
While Pennsylvania has the fifth-most unused economic impact payments, it does also have the fifth-largest resident population according to 2020 U.S. census data. The top four most populous states are, again, California, Texas, Florida, and New York.
The CARES Act included the distribution of $1,200 checks to most Americans. Subsequent stimulus payments for individuals included $600 through the Tax Relief Act passed in December 2020 and $1,400 through the American Rescue Plan enacted in March 2021.
Are more stimulus checks coming?
Some politicians have called for additional or even recurring stimulus payments as Americans continue to feel the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it seems unlikely that a fourth stimulus will pass in the U.S. legislature.
In a May 17 letter, Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging for two more rounds of stimulus payments to help with expenses such as housing and food.
On March 30, 21 Democratic senators pushed for recurring direct payments in another letter to the president. Millions of individuals have also signed online petitions calling for recurring stimulus checks through the end of the pandemic.
A Data for Progress poll found that 65% of respondents overall — including 54% of Republicans, 60% of Independents, and 78% of Democrats — are in favor of monthly payments. In contrast, 32% of respondents oppose the payments.
Regardless of voters’ opinions, though, government support for additional payments seems to be lacking. The last stimulus payment passed through Congress without any Republican support, using a process that only requires a simple majority and is not used often. Additionally, some argue that there are not enough moderate politicians in support of more stimulus checks for the measure to pass.
President Biden’s latest economic plan focuses on infrastructure, and Democratic leaders seem to be prioritizing that over additional stimulus checks. When asked about stimulus checks at the beginning of May, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “We’ll see what members of Congress propose,” noting the payments “were not free.”
Proponents of prior and additional stimulus checks, such as the politicians who signed this May 17 letter, argue that they help mitigate economic challenges individuals may face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) says in a statement, “Throughout the pandemic, millions of Pennsylvanians received direct payments to help them endure the worst economic crisis we’ve seen since the Great Depression. Economic impact payments helped families put food on the table and pay their bills—at a time when many didn’t know when their next paycheck was coming.”
Opponents argue that distributing checks to all Americans is unnecessary, as not everyone has faced the same economic hardships during the pandemic.
A statement from the Office of U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) reads, “With personal savings rates and per capita disposable income at or near historic highs, Senator Toomey strongly opposes subsequent rounds of unnecessary and inefficient aid, like stimulus checks.”
As the end of the pandemic seems to be in sight, businesses are now having trouble hiring employees. Some argue that this may be because people do not feel the need to return to work because they are currently making more money from government programs than they would at their jobs, explains Peter Miklos, executive vice president and Central Pennsylvania Commercial Banking Group Manager at Univest Bank and Trust Co.
Meanwhile, others say that the labor shortage is the result of employers not paying enough to fairly compensate employees for their labor, so individuals are unwilling to fill those low-paying positions, Miklos explains. Fear of catching COVID-19 could be another factor contributing to hiring challenges.
On top of that, employers are posting more jobs now as pandemic limitations ease up than they had been before the pandemic. Essentially, “demand is outpacing supply,” says Daniel Zhao, senior economist at job listing website Glassdoor, adding, “That’s something that is occurring across the economy, in semiconductors to lumber, and we’re seeing a similar crunch in the labor market.”