A new study shows that the first stimulus check was essential in saving Americans from widespread poverty, creating a good chance for a second round. The Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University published the study last week, assessing the effect of the CARES Act in general on the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. It found that without the stimulus check and other measures provided, poverty would likely have risen by nearly 25 percent.
The researchers found that the U.S. poverty level was around 12.8 percent before the coronavirus crisis began, and is now at about 12.7 percent. Without the CARES Act, their data shows, the poverty rate would likely have surged to 16.3 percent as the virus hit. This takes into account not only the stimulus check that most Americans got, but the expansion of unemployment benefits, the Paycheck Protection Program and other benefits passed down to individuals. It provides a good talking point for the lawmakers now pushing for another stimulus package.
The CARES Act provided an extra $600 per week to unemployment benefits across the country, from the time it was passed in March until the end of July. Many are intent on extending this payment in the next stimulus package, fearing for what would happen to working families without it. "The CARES Act has potential to return the annual poverty rate to pre-crisis levels, but only if an adequate number of families can actually access the CARES Act benefits," the researchers wrote.
Another package would likely also include another stimulus check. At the time of this writing, the HEROES Act is the closest to passing, and it would provide a check worth up to $1,200. It follows similar rules to the CARES Act stimulus check, though it has been refined and expanded to include adult dependents, immigrants and other groups neglected in the first round.
The HEROES Act was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives back in March, but it has been sitting idle in the Senate ever since. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell repeatedly promised to consider another stimulus package in July, though Congress is currently on a two-week recess until July 17.
Even then, McConnell has condemned the HEROES Act, saying that Republicans are unlikely to pass it even with revisions. Last month, he told his constituents: "If there's a final rescue package, that's when it will develop and it will start, once again, in my office. ... The House efforts are simply not practical," according to a report by The Hill.