In the absence of a fourth federal stimulus check, several states have come up with their own stimulus programs, such California’s Golden State Stimulus program. Now, one more state is considering plans to send relief payments, but only to homeowners. These homeowners coronavirus stimulus checks are being popularly called property tax relief.
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Ahead of next year’s November elections, Texas Republicans are planning to use the federal relief funds to give homeowners coronavirus stimulus checks. House lawmakers are working on a proposal that could give up to $525 to about 5.7 million homeowners.
However, officials estimate that the average homeowner would get about $200 to $400 in one-time relief depending on how the state’s economy fares next year. These checks, however, will only go to those who claimed a homestead exemption.
To give out homeowners coronavirus stimulus checks, the lawmakers would use $3 billion that the state got from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act, which was approved in March this year.
The Republican legislators will use Senate Bill 1 to provide property tax relief without breaching the federal rule that prohibits the use of stimulus dollars for tax cuts. This bill was originally a straight-up tax cut bill from the Senate.
However, the House lawmakers used the proposal to come up with a plan to give $3 billion in checks to homeowners. Now, both the chambers will have to come up with a compromise.
Concerns With This Stimulus Program
Though this proposal of giving stimulus money to homeowners sounds great, there are a few concerns that need to be addressed. The first concern is that most Texans don't own the property they live on.
During a debate on the House floor, state Representative Gene Wu (D-Houston) noted that a third of Texans don’t own the property they live on, and thus, this program may fail to deliver the expected results.
Republicans, however, argue that renters have already been taken care of by the federal rent assistance program. Texas got about $2 billion in federal money for rent relief.
Even if this homeowners coronavirus stimulus check program is approved, the checks won’t arrive until next September, i.e. a couple of months before the midterm elections. Thus, many are calling the homeowners coronavirus stimulus checks a political stunt to gain votes.
“I don’t think this is a fiscally responsible or prudent way to use ARPA dollars,” state Sen. Nathan Johnson (D-Dallas) said. “We’re taking COVID money and spending it on reelection stimulus checks.”
The use of federal funds to provide tax relief allows lawmakers to spend lavishly on tax relief and other similar programs without worrying about budget constraints. This is because the use of federal money doesn’t count against state spending limits.
House lawmakers, however, argue that their proposal addresses “negative economic impacts” arising due to the COVID-19 pandemic.