Stimulus Checks to Come at the Unemployed’s Expense

The economic pain of the COVID recession is not universally dispersed, but rather, viciously concentrated on a (large) minority of the public. Why then, some analysts ask, should the disbursement of universal checks be a higher priority for progressives than robust aid to the unemployed?


Eric Levitz
New York Magazine
December 17, 2020

Tags: COVID-19, Unemployment, Unemployment Insurance


1) Checks will put cash into the hands of the needy faster than UI will. Unemployment benefits are distributed through 50 different state bureaucracies, many of which are shoddy by design. And since Congress procrastinated so long on extending UI benefits, many states will need to reprogram their systems to dispense further aid. The holiday season is likely to elongate the delay between the passage of new benefits and their receipt by beneficiaries. Which means that many of the long-term unemployed are about to see their income crater amid the darkest winter in modern memory. Although there are logistical challenges to distributing relief checks, the IRS allocated the CARES Act’s payments more swiftly last spring than many state unemployment offices did. As of May, only three in five Americans who’d applied for unemployment benefits had secured them. The second time around, it should be easier for the IRS to rapidly distribute aid. Given the desperation of America’s least fortunate, quick relief is preferable to the well-targeted kind.