Relief Checks Issue ‘A Bit More Complicated’

April 1, 2021

Editor, The News-Gazette:

Ho hum, yet another letter to the editor last week using cherry-picked half-facts and omitting all context simply to make political points. I could almost see Tucker Carlson’s lips moving as I read it. I’m referring to the letter imploring your readers to write Senators Kaine and Warner to ask why they voted to send COVID 19 relief checks to prisoners. Why are those senators so evil? As usual, the issue is a bit more complicated.

The author meant the senators voted for the COVID 19 relief bill, which did not specifically exclude prisoners from receiving relief checks. The senators, of course, voted for the bill in total, not specifically for the lack of a certain provision. The author is probably aware that the two previous relief bills passed under the Trump Administration (the first passed unanimously and the second 92-6) also did not exclude prisoners from receiving relief checks. So, anyone taking the author’s suggestion might also want to write Mitch McConnell, Tom Cotton and Lindsay Graham, among others, to ask them why they voted for the two previous bills.

There was a reason excluding prisoners from receiving checks was considered in the bill but ultimately rejected. Although everyone would agree that sending checks to prisoners should be avoided, using the tax system to send the money quickly makes it very difficult to exclude them without also excluding their joint-filing, immediate families, typically poor, struggling and disproportionately people of color. Those wives, husbands and children are not criminals and need financial help too. Additionally, there are a number of impediments to single prisoners getting these checks (e.g. no tax return on record, lack of access to forms, etc.) which make it likely a relatively small percentage will receive them. Like every bill passed by Congress, this bill contained compromises about which reasonable people can respectfully disagree.

I could go on to address the discussion of immigration in the letter, which also took on a partisan, talking-point flavor, but that is for another day. I just believe that letters to the editor would be more useful and less divisive if they acknowledged the full context of the issues in taking their positions rather than providing one-sided talking points to further one’s political views.



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