This is what it would take for a second stimulus check to happen now vs. 2021

December 15, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


Here’s what you need to know about a second stimulus check for 2021.

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On Tuesday, top US lawmakers continue to debate a bipartisan stimulus package presented by a group of Republican and Democratic senators. The stimulus proposal totals $908 billion split into two separate parts — one for $748 billion and one for $160 billion — neither of which contains a second stimulus check. That’s ruffling feathers, as some are calling for another direct payment to Americans.

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

President Donald Trump has also called for “more money than they’re talking about” in stimulus checks.

The situation is complicated. The bipartisan authors of the split stimulus proposal have urged lawmakers to use one or both bills as a foundation for passing legislation of some sort, or as a standalone plan. Could a fresh wave of backing for a $1,200 per person or $600 per person stimulus check be enough to get another stimulus check tacked on?

Or would another stimulus check for qualified adults and their dependents have to wait until 2021? Here’s what we know now, depending on what happens in the near future. We recently updated this story with new information.

A $1,200 stimulus check gets passed in 2020, paid out in 2021

For a second stimulus check to happen in 2020, it would either need to be added to a current bill that’s then agreed upon by both sides and passed in the Senate and the House of Representatives, or it would need to pass as a standalone bill. 

For a standalone bill to pass, the header of each Congressional chamber would have to bring it to a vote. If they didn’t, the bill would languish.

So far, there has been some energy around a $1,200 stimulus check. In what’s been called an unlikely duo, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley and Sanders, an independent, have teamed up to demand that a $1,200 stimulus check be included in the proposal at the center of the most recent debate. It could also appear as a standalone bill.

The chances of that are considered slim, however, by Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate. 

“I don’t think it’s going to be in the deal, so it would have to be in some separate vote that they would get a chance to vote on that. I’m not sure how that would happen at this point,” he said, The Hill reported Tuesday. 

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A bill passes with a $600 stimulus check sent to Americans

Another approach, a brand new bill that already includes a check, has already been rejected by Democrats. The White House’s Dec. 8 $918 billion proposal would include a $600 stimulus check at the expense of renewing the federal contribution to weekly unemployment insurance for out-of-work Americans. The simple math is that unemployment money would supply a maximum of around $4,800 for individuals with no income ($300 a week for four months, or 16 weeks) versus a one-time payment of $600 per qualified individual per household.

However, if the contents of the bill were to shift and leave out some of the funding, could there be enough left to pay out a stopgap stimulus check in addition to the $300 weekly federal unemployment checks? And if that happens, could there be a third check in 2021? We don’t know, but it’s certainly worth thinking about.

Why wasn’t a stimulus check part of the $908 billion bipartisan package?

The likeliest answer is cost. As of this summer, the IRS said it sent 160 million stimulus payments totaling $270 billion, or roughly 30% of the total bipartisan proposal. As of September, the IRS was still hunting down at least 9 million people who were still owed that first payment, bringing the total cost even higher. 

By breaking the $908 billion relief sum into two parts, however, it’s possible that lawmakers could cobble together a deal that involves a smaller amount of stimulus check money now, without having to sacrifice the $300 federal weekly unemployment money that’s part of the larger $748 billion bill. 

A stimulus payment in 2021, instead of 2020?

If action continues to coalesce around the two-part $908 billion plan as is, there won’t be another stimulus check in 2020, but the chances could then be greater to galvanize a $1,200 check in 2021. Though previous proposals have suggested $2,000 per qualified adult until the pandemic is over (that idea was backed by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and Sanders), $1,200 seems to be a precedent both sides will accept. 

“We need to get the essential done and we’ll have time to get stuff done that we didn’t include because we couldn’t get a political agreement, we’ll have time to do that,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Dec. 13, seeming to hint that Democrats could put aside funding they want in order to pass a bill in the short term. “We have a new president, we have a new Congress. We’re not going to leave anybody behind.”

See below for key figures who support another check.

Why a second stimulus check has a good chance of passing… at some point

The number of lawmakers who support a second check is growing. Here’s a partial list of people and groups in and around government who have come out strongly in favor of another check.

President-elect Joe Biden: “I think it would be better if they have the $1,200 and I understand that may be still in play,” Biden said Dec. 4, adding that he supports the $908 billion proposal as a necessary short-term compromise. “You’ve got to find the sweet spot where you have enough people willing to move in a direction that gets us a long way down the road.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders: The Vermont Democrat and former presidential hopeful said he won’t support the $908 billion bill without major changes to include stimulus checks. He also wants to exclude language about limiting lawsuits related to COVID-19, something that Republicans want. “In my view, we have got to make sure that every working class American receives at least $1,200 in direct payments,” Sanders said. Sanders on Thursday said he was working with Hawley on an amendment for a $1,200 check.


Another stimulus check isn’t out of the running yet.

James Martin/CNET

Sen. Josh Hawley: The Republican from Missouri appears to be a lone voice in his party, both advocating for another direct payment and also tweeting his willingness to reach across the aisle and work with Democrats. “I don’t know why we wouldn’t give assistance directly to families and individuals who need it,” he told NBC News Dec. 3. “It’s fast — it’s as fast as anything else.”

On Thursday, Hawley was working with Sanders on another stimulus check and said he would introduce legislation for another direct payment. “If Congress doesn’t pass relief legislation with direct payments in it by next week, I will go to the Senate floor to demand a vote on my legislation,” he said in a statement.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez objected to the lack of a stimulus check for ordinary Americans. “COVID relief needs to directly help everyday people. People need stimulus checks & UI,” she tweeted Dec. 4, referring to a larger weekly check for unemployment insurance.

Rep. Roy Blunt: “We need to continue the funding for the vaccine, the delivery of the vaccine,” Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, said Nov. 29 on CNN. “Direct money to struggling families would be helpful and some extension of unemployment.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, Rep. Rashida Tlaib: The Democrats also vocalized their support for direct relief. Manchin helped craft the $908 billion stimulus bill as a way to keep programs from expiring without a safety net, he said.

127 economists: A large group of bipartisan economists, including former President Barack Obama’s top economic advisor, called on Congress Nov. 23 to swiftly pass a stimulus bill, specifically one that includes a check for Americans.

“We urge policymakers to use all the tools at their disposal to revitalize the economy, including direct cash payments, which are one of the quickest, most equitable, and most effective ways to get families and the economy back on track,” the open letter said.

President Donald Trump: On Oct. 6, Trump openly called for Democrats to reach an agreement on a stimulus deal, hours after putting a stop to negotiations on the same day, while being treated for COVID-19 with a drug known to have strong side effects. “If I am sent a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY. I am ready to sign right now,” he tweeted. This week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a new proposal that reportedly includes $600 stimulus checks to Democratic leaders.

Democrat-authored Heroes Act, versions 1 and 2: Both versions of the bill passed by the House of Representatives on May 15 and Oct. 1, respectively, included a second stimulus check of up to $1,200 per eligible adult.

Republican-Authored HEALS Act: Introduced in the Senate by Republican authors on July 27, this trillion-dollar proposal included a maximum $1,200 direct payment, just like the CARES Act from March and the Heroes Act.

For more information on stimulus checks, here’s how you might get more money in your next check, or a smaller payment next time around. Here’s who may not qualify. And this is a primer on the five different priority groups and when you might realistically be able to get another check if and when it’s passed, based on key dates.

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