Politics|Breaking From Trump, Biden Opts Against Branding Stimulus Checks
WASHINGTON — The next round of stimulus checks that Congress is expected to approve this week will not include President Biden’s name, a White House official said on Tuesday, a decision that breaks with the practice of his predecessor, President Donald J. Trump, who sought to take credit for the payments by personally branding them.
Millions of Americans are expected to receive direct payments of up to $1,400 in the coming weeks once Congress enacts a $1.9 trillion relief package. Most of those payments will be made electronically, by direct deposit, but some Americans will receive paper checks in the mail.
The last two rounds of checks included Mr. Trump’s name, along with a signed letter accompanying the funds, prompting criticism from Democrats and watchdog groups that he was politicizing the relief money, which passed on a bipartisan basis.
The initial $1,200 checks that were included in the first round of stimulus legislation were also delayed because Mr. Trump decided to add his name to the memo line of the checks. That slowed the design process as Internal Revenue Service officials scrambled to confirm that Mr. Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, had actually ordered the change to the checks. Mr. Trump also sent a signed letter to accompany the payments.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said on Tuesday that Mr. Biden would abandon that practice of putting the president’s name on the checks.
“This is not about him,” she said during a news briefing. “This is about the American people getting relief.”
Ms. Psaki said that the checks would be signed by a career official from the Bureau of the Fiscal Service, which is part of the Treasury Department. She said that Mr. Biden did not believe putting his name on the checks was a priority or “a necessary step.”
The distribution of the payments was initially mired in confusion last year, with dead people and foreigners receiving payments and people who were eligible to receive money facing long delays in getting the funds.
The ability to get money to people quickly will be the first big test for Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, who will be overseeing the distribution of much of the relief money after the legislation passes.
While keeping his name off the checks could be a missed political opportunity for Mr. Biden, some Democrats saw it as a positive shift.
“President Biden’s predecessor delayed emergency relief payments so he could have his signature printed on the checks,” Representative Donald S. Beyer Jr., Democrat of Virginia, said on Tuesday. “Exactly right, and what a welcome change.”