Stimulus checks reportedly back in the COVID-19 package again. Today’s update

16 Dec, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


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A smaller stimulus bill has a chance of making it through before the end of 2020.


Sarah Tew/CNET

A second stimulus check that goes directly into American hands is once again playing a central role in negotiations over a COVID-19 relief package, according to multiple reports Wednesday morning. The new stimulus checks would be far less than the $1,200 per person maximum authorized by the CARES Act in March, according to Politico and The Washington Post, citing sources familiar with the stimulus debates.

A smaller second stimulus check would be one way to keep costs below the $1 trillion cutoff that Republican lawmakers have in the past said they’d support. Last week, the White House, by way of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, offered $600 maximum stimulus checks, but was rebuffed by Democratic leaders because that $918 billion proposal also cut $300 in weekly federal unemployment insurance benefits that would help prop up jobseekers until April.

By Monday, a group of bipartisan senators had split their initial $908 billion proposal from Dec. 1 into two parts. The first is a core bill worth $748 billion, which contains the unemployment funding and other measures. The second is a $160 billion bill that carves off the two most contentious issues that could capsize an agreement, money for state, local and tribal funding on one hand, and a liability shield to protect businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits on the other.

Neither lobe of the two-part stimulus deal contains a second stimulus check, and the chance of a direct payment being approved in 2020 has looked dim. Now, it seems, with the thorniest issues sloughed off, the four key Democratic and Republican negotiators are seizing the monetary wiggle room to add back the popular stimulus check, albeit at a reduced rate. 


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Next stimulus checks: What to expect



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Stimulus checks aren’t cheap. The IRS said this summer that it had spent $270 billion sending out 160 million checks, and on Monday, Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican who has been involved in crafting the bipartisan stimulus proposal, forecast a cost of $300 billion if the checks were once again included for $1,200 per person. Republicans reportedly bridled at the cost.

Read moreAmerica is getting a new Congress: What that means for another stimulus check

Mnuchin’s White House proposal last week allocated $600 each in stimulus money for every qualified adult and their child dependent, a drop from $1,200 in the CARES Act for adults, and a raise over the $500 per qualified dependent. It isn’t yet clear if the final proposal will follow this suggestion.

The lack of stimulus checks in the bipartisan $908 billion stimulus plan has been a source of consternation in Washington this month, with some outspoken lawmakers vowing to vote against any bill that didn’t contain a direct payment for American households.

“Congress cannot go home for the Christmas holidays until we pass legislation which provides a $1,200 direct payment to working class adults, $2,400 for couples, and a $500 payment to their children,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, said Monday in a statement. “This is what Democrats and Republicans did unanimously in March through the CARES Act. This is what we have to do today.”

Sanders has been joined in particular by Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, who has worked with Sanders to create a bill for another $1,200 check.

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More stimulus money for the country and its citizens hangs in the balance.


Sarah Tew/CNET

President Donald Trump, too, has called for “more money than they’re talking about” in stimulus checks, and has continued to push for a second check in the final bill. 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not say whether Trump would refuse to sign a stimulus package that didn’t include a second check, but said Tuesday that Trump “would really like to see those stimulus checks in there.”

A coronavirus aid proposal before Jan. 1 is considered emergency legislation to institute a safety net for expiring benefits that could leave tens of million of unemployed Americans without an income and millions of households facing eviction. A sweeping deal like the $2 trillion CARES Act from March, which authorized a $1,200 stimulus check for most Americans, is more likely to return to the table in early 2021, top US leaders have implied. 

“We’re not leaving here without a COVID package. It’s not gonna happen. We’re gonna stay here until we get a COVID package,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday. “No matter how long it takes, we’ll be here.”

Here’s what we know about where negotiations stand right now and what could happen before the end of the year.

Read moreWhat Biden could do for stimulus if another bill doesn’t pass

When could Congress realistically pass a new stimulus bill?

Here are some possible scenarios that could play out over the coming weeks and months, depending on how negotiations settle in Washington.

When could a stimulus bill or package pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Dec 18 Dec 21 Dec 22
Dec 22 Dec 23 Dec 24
Feb 1, 2021 (after inauguration) Feb 2 Feb 3
Feb 16 (Feb 15 is Presidents Day) Feb 16 Feb 16

4 things that could happen with a stimulus package now

If a stimulus bill is completed this year or before Jan. 20: With an agreement made, the current House and Senate would vote before the new Congress is seated in early January. If the outgoing president then signed the rescue bill into law, aid would likely begin to go out within weeks, with certain groups possibly receiving financial help before the end of 2020.

If negotiators agree on a stimulus deal, but it fails in either the House or Senate: In this situation, Democrats and Republicans could advance their own proposals that might pass in their majority chambers but fail (or fail to be considered) by the other. In this case, Congress might try again after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.

A smaller bill could pass now and a larger one could happen later: It’s possible that a subset of programs would get funded before Biden becomes president — for example, unemployment aid, an extension of the eviction ban or even a second stimulus check, with the new Congress revisiting other programs after the inauguration. As the sitting president, Trump would need to sign any bill passed before Jan. 20 into law for it to take effect.

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Stimulus negotiations are under incredible stress.


Sarah Tew/CNET

If talks once again fall apart until after Jan. 20: If partisan differences keep a bill from passing, it’s possible they’ll restart in some capacity after Biden’s inauguration in January. Here are some executive actions Biden could take immediately once president if a stimulus bill hasn’t passed by the time he’s sworn in.

If a bill does pass that includes a direct payment, here’s how quickly we think the IRS could send a second stimulus check.

The Democrats’ Heroes stimulus package still matters

On Oct. 1, the House of Representatives passed a revised Heroes Act that included a second stimulus check and additional benefits, such as enhanced unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans. The House bill, endorsed primarily by Democrats, was not expected to advance through the Republican-controlled Senate, and indeed did not.

Although it’s not law, this bill provides the talking points House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was working with prior to the bipartisan proposal and might return to next year, if another stimulus proposal picks up steam after Biden’s inauguration. This revised Heroes Act has Biden’s support and could figure into future negotiations, depending on whether Georgia’s state runoff on Jan. 5 gives Democrats control of the Senate (Republicans currently maintain a two-seat lead).

What parts do Republicans and Democrats agree on?

Proposals from both sides have included the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses, enhanced unemployment insurance and another stimulus payment of up to $1,200 for individuals who meet the requirements. Although not every benefit would make it into a smaller bill, these other relief measures are most likely to gain bipartisan support in the coming year. The two sides also agree on more financial assistance for coronavirus testing and vaccine deployment.

Here’s the breakdown of the frontrunner bill proposal so far.

For more information about stimulus checks, here’s how soon you might get your second stimulus check now, what you should do to speed up the delivery of a potential second check, and what to know about the HEALS, CARES and Heroes stimulus bill proposals that could help inform a final package.





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