An ethics watchdog group is concerned about the Biden administration’s personalized letters — signed by President Joe Biden — notifying recipients of new federal financial benefits, the Washington Examiner reported.
Critics have called the practice akin to former President Donald Trump putting his name on coronavirus aid checks ahead of the 2020 general election, the news outlet noted.
“While Trump exacerbated the issue with his insistence that checks bear his signature, potentially delaying them going out with a scheme to get around the law, the trend of presidents sending self-serving signed letters at taxpayer expense is concerning no matter who is president,” Jenna Grande, press secretary for the center-left watchdog group Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told the Washington Examiner.
“If Biden wants to improve the ethics of the presidency, he should end this tactic.”
The watchdog group’s president, Noah Bookbinder, previously criticized the Trump administration’s signed letters, and said in a statement he “[hopes] that President Biden will not learn the wrong lessons from his predecessor and continue this kind of tactic,” the news outlet reported.
The Biden administration has sent out letters signed by the president twice, with the latest in June.
According to the Washington Examiner, the June letters informed families with children aged 17 and younger they’d be getting expanded, fully refundable child tax credits beginning in July — an expansion that was included in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, Biden’s signature coronavirus stimulus package.
The White House included both an English and Spanish version of the letter in each envelope, which were addressed to “My fellow American/Mi compatriota” and bore Biden’s signature at the end; the Washington Examiner posted a copy.
After touting the new “economic benefit,” the letter reminded recipients when Biden was inaugurated, he “promised the American people that help was on the way. This child tax payment is one more way the American Rescue Plan makes good on that promise,” the news outlet reported.
“Our economy is on the mend and I believe brighter days are ahead,” Biden wrote in closing. “I truly believe there is nothing we can’t do as a nation, as long as we do it together.”
The first round of personalized letters were sent to qualifying taxpayers in April, and featured a similar tone and format as it touted the third round of direct coronavirus stimulus checks also included in the American Rescue Plan, Business Insider reported at the time.
“A key part of the American Rescue Plan is direct payments of $1,400 per person for most American households,” Biden wrote in that letter. “This fulfills a promise I made to you, and will help get Americans through the crisis.”
The White House told the Washington Examiner the administration is sending the letters to help taxpayers prepare their returns, and that “while President Biden’s name is not on the memo line of the checks themselves, these letters follow the precedent set by the prior administration.”
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