WASHINGTON: US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Sunday (Feb 7) that American workers who earn US$60,000 per year should receive stimulus checks as part of the White House's proposed US$1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.
"The exact details of how it should be targeted are to be determined, but struggling middle class families need help," Yellen said on CNN’s "State of the Union."
The White House has said it is open to negotiation on who should be eligible to receive the proposed US$1,400 checks, and has declined to specify where it thinks the income cutoff should be.
"President (Joe) Biden is certainly willing to work with members of Congress to define what's fair and he wouldn't want to see a household making over US$300,000 receive these payments,” Yellen said, without offering further detail.
If Congress approves the US$1.9 trillion plan, the country would get back to full employment next year, Yellen said. Otherwise, she said, unemployment would linger for years.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have resisted the administration’s COVID-19 relief plan, concerned it would unnecessarily increase the national debt following the US$4 trillion in aid Congress passed last year.
Speaking on the ABC News' program "This Week," Republican Senator Roger Wicker said he thought his party would be willing to support something in the US$600 billion to US$700 billion range.
Biden has said he would like to win bipartisan support for his plan, but that Republicans were falling far short of the mark in terms of what needs to be done. He said Democrats would go it alone if needed.
The president, Yellen and other administration officials have warned repeatedly that the danger to the economy would be going too small with stimulus efforts, not too large.
Last week, the House and Senate approved a budget plan that would allow a coronavirus relief bill to clear the Senate with a simple majority vote of 51.
Under normal rules, 60 votes would be needed. The Senate is split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris representing the tie-breaking vote for Democrats.
Asked about the risk of over-stimulating the economy and generating inflation, Yellen said: "We have good tools to deal with that risk if it materializes."