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Fourth stimulus check — why it might and might not happen

Ben Franklin mask money
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Now that stimulus check 3 is rolling out in waves — with nearly 160 million payments distributed to individuals and families so far — Americans may be wondering if they have more relief to look forward to in the future, either in the form of a fourth stimulus check or some kind of recurring stimulus payment. 

While there hasn't been any meaningful movement in Congress toward more stimulus funding, there have been rumblings about the possibility of and need for additional relief for the duration of the pandemic. Here are a few reasons why that may or may not happen. 

Why a fourth stimulus check could happen

Additional or ongoing payments have some support in Congress. At least two groups of progressive lawmakers in the House and Senate have put pressure on the Biden administration to back additional stimulus relief. 

More than 50 House Democrats sent a letter to the White House in January calling for recurring direct payments to be included in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the stimulus legislation that ultimately passed and gave Americans one-time $1,400 checks. 

In late March, 21 Senate Democrats, including multiple party leaders, sent a similar letter urging Biden to include recurring stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment benefits in his infrastructure bill known as the Build Back Better plan. 

Neither proposal named specific amounts or eligibility requirements. 

Left-leaning policy groups have also come out in support of more relief. The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center has said that one additional check could further shrink the number of people living in poverty. The Economic Security Project has also called for ongoing payments tied to economic conditions. 

Stimulus checks are popular with voters. A Morning Consult/Politico poll in early March found that the ongoing $300-per-week unemployment benefits and one-time stimulus payments in the American Rescue Plan Act had majority support among voters of all parties. An earlier poll from the left-leaning Data for Progress found that 65% of voters would support recurring $2,000 relief checks. 

Why a fourth stimulus check won't happen

While stimulus checks are popular in some circles, the idea of ongoing relief hasn't gained any real steam

For one, the Biden administration did not include additional direct payments in its infrastructure plan and has not indicated any plans to support such proposals. Moreover, proposals for additional stimulus checks would probably not have enough votes to pass in the Senate. 

Some metrics also suggest that additional relief may not be necessary with the economy recovering as quickly as it has been. Retail sales soared in March — in part due to people spending their $1,400 checks — while unemployment claims fell to a new pandemic-era low earlier this month. 

The CDC reported that as of April 19, more than half of American adults had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, setting people up to return to less restricted activities that will boost the economy. 

Finally, some economists are worried that additional stimulus spending could cause inflation to rise, doing more harm than good. The Federal Reserve has said recent inflationary spikes are only temporary, but some are still looking toward the long-term impact on the market.