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Economists call for more stimulus checks

More than 125 economists are urging policymakers to provide more direct payments to Americans in order to help keep families out of poverty and help the economy recover from the coronavirus-related downturn.

"We urge policymakers to use all the tools at their disposal to revitalize the economy, including direct cash payments, which are one of the quickest, most equitable, and most effective ways to get families and the economy back on track," the economists wrote in an open letter, which was organized by the Economic Security Project.

Economists who signed the letter include Jason FurmanJason FurmanThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history Progressives offer mixed messages on key Biden economic aide Former Treasury secretaries from both parties call for immediate COVID-19 relief deal MORE, who served as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers during former President Obama's administration; Alan Blinder, who served as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve board during former President Clinton's administration; and Claudia Sahm, a former economist at the Fed.

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The $2.2 trillion CARES Act enacted in March provided for one-time direct payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed interest in issuing a second round of payments in future coronavirus relief legislation. However, it's unclear when any subsequent relief package will be enacted because Democrats and Republicans are far apart on other issues, such as the overall price tag of a bill.

The economists said in their letter that many families have experienced financial difficulties during the pandemic, and low-wage earners, women and Black workers have been hit particularly hard. The economists said that more direct payments would help millions of Americans, including people who don't qualify for unemployment benefits.

"Stimulus checks have been an essential tool to keep the number of people in poverty from going even higher," the economists wrote.

The economists also said that more direct payments would increase consumer spending, which could help the economy recover faster.

"The direct cash payments in the CARES Act boosted the economy by increasing spending at all income levels, and the most among low-income people," they said. "Direct checks, especially if targeted to the bottom half of households, would ensure those struggling the most, particularly Black, Latinx, and Native American families, aren’t left behind."

The economists called for recurring direct payments to be paired with other forms of relief, such as unemployment benefits, aid to state and local governments and funding for child care.