WASHINGTON - President Bush said tax rebates will start going out Monday, earlier than previously announced, and should help Americans cope with rising gasoline and food prices, as well as aid a slumping economy.
US President George W. Bush waves as he walks across the South Lawn after returning to the White House in Washington, April 25, 2008. [Agencies]
Democrats said they were glad the rebate checks were about to go out, but suggested that multinational oil companies were not among the businesses the stimulus package was originally designed to help.
"Starting Monday, the effects of the stimulus will begin to reach millions of households across our country," Bush said Friday in remarks on the South Lawn of the White House.
Those first rebates will be directly deposited into people's bank accounts. The Internal Revenue Service had been saying direct deposits wouldn't start until next Friday. Bush said paper checks would begin going out on May 9, a week earlier than previously announced.
"The money is going to help Americans offset the high prices we're seeing at the gas pump, the grocery store, and also give our economy a boost to help us pull out of this economic slowdown," Bush said.
Bush's emphasis on fuel and food prices differed from other comments he's made since signing the economic stimulus legislation, intended to aid the economy by boosting overall consumer spending - which accounts for roughly two-thirds of the nation's economic activity.
Bush has suggested the rebates could trigger a spending spree. "When the money reaches the American people, we expect they will use it to boost consumer spending," he said last month.
By saying expressly that people could use these one-time checks to pay for such necessities as food and gas, Bush underscored the deepening challenges facing the economy.
Democrats were quick to pick up on the change of focus.
"It's galling to think that taxpayers' stimulus checks will be lining the pockets of OPEC. The sad truth is that the average American family will spend almost their entire stimulus check on higher gas prices this year," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.
OPEC is the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.