Since May, the stimulus check negotiation has been virtually non-stop and it has been hard for many Americans to track the day-to-day updates on the legislation. While the process has dragged on longer than anyone hoped, citizens are still in desperate need of more aid, and politicians all along the political spectrum are determined to provide it. There are a handful of critical updates to keep in mind as the U.S. Congress' new session ramps up for debate.
The U.S. government issued a one-time stimulus check back in April as a part of the CARES Act — the most significant coronavirus stimulus package to date. While many Americans are eager for another stimulus check, the real stumbling blocks to this negotiation are the other, more extensive programs in the package, including unemployment insurance, the Paycheck Protection Program and federal funding for state and local governments. All of this has contributed to the current stalemate between the United States Senate and the House of Representatives.
There have now been at least three significant stalled attempts at a second stimulus package. The House passed the HEROES Act in May, but the Senate ignored it entirely, not even bringing it to a vote. The Senate then offered the HEALS Act at the end of July, kicking off serious negotiations across the aisle. The two sides could not reach an agreement before their scheduled recesses at the beginning of August.
Last week, the Senate introduced a "skinny bill" — a smaller stimulus package that included just some of the programs needed to buoy the economy through this pandemic. It did not have the stimulus check itself. This bill could not pass even in the Republican-controlled Senate, sending the lawmakers back to the drawing board.
Now, Congress is rushing to come to a valid agreement before the 2020 presidential election since both sides fear for their chances of staying in the office if they can't provide the aid the American people need. Here's what you need to know going into this next round of stimulus negotiations.
No Check Yet
Many Americans have been frustrated at the hold-up with the stimulus check itself since the two sides are more or less agreed on that aspect of the next stimulus package. According to a report by CNET, the fate of the stimulus check is tied to the fate of the rest of the multi-trillion dollar package, leaving Americans out in the cold until an agreement is reached.
"It's very important that we have stimulus that helps the areas of the economy that need support," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday. "I've told [Pelosi] I'm available anytime to negotiate, no conditions."prevnext
When and if another stimulus check does pass, the good news is that it will likely come faster than the previous payment did. The IRS has promised that the kinks of disbursing the stimulus check were worked out in the last round of payments, so the next round can be distributed quickly. Back in August, Mnuchin reportedly said: "I could get out 50 million payments really quickly" — perhaps within a week of the bill being signed.prevnext
The eligibility rules for the second stimulus check are likely to be similar to the first round, but not completely identical. The Republican and Democrat proposals have slight variations between them, but both are reasonably similar to see what you might get from either package.
The check is likely to be worth $1,200 to any individual with an annual gross income (AGI) of $75,000 per year or less. From there, the amount of the check decreases by $5 for every additional $100 on your AGI — so, a person making $75,100 would get a stimulus check of $1,195, a person making $75,200 would get $1,190, and so on. At an AGI of $99,000 and above, there would be no stimulus check at all.
These amounts are simply doubled for couples who file joint taxes, and there is a similar structure for "head of household" filers.prevnext
Unlike the first round, both the Republican and Democrat proposals for a second stimulus package allow taxpayers to get additional funding for dependents, even if they are adults. This includes college students and elderly family members, though some critics say that those adults should get their own stimulus check.
Under the Republican plan, families get an additional $500 per dependent, regardless of their age or how many dependents they claim. Under the Democratic plan, families get an additional $1,200 per dependent, but with a limit of three dependents per family.prevnext
The IRS is still urging Americans to set up direct deposit with the agency so that a stimulus check can be put directly into their bank account, rather than sent through the mail. The agency is also promoting its "EIP cards" — which function like debit cards so that stimulus money can be used as-is as soon as it arrives.
Back in June, the IRS published information on how Americans got the first round of stimulus checks. About 75 percent of taxpayers got theirs through direct deposit — around 120 million payments in total. Meanwhile, about 22 percent (35 million people) got their stimulus check in the mail, while just 3 percent (4 million) took advantage of the EIP debit cards.
The IRS' "Get My Payment" site is now closed, so Americans who still have not provided direct deposit information to the agency may not be able to unless another round of stimulus checks opens it up. Otherwise, the EIP cards may be the most convenient way to receive the payment.prevnext
Estimating the Amount
For those trying to plan around the second stimulus check, CNET offers a calculator tool to determine how much you and your family will qualify for under each of the current proposals. The numbers are not exact, but they provide a ball park estimate for Americans waiting for more aid.prevnext
Sadly, Americans can do little now except wait, watch and keep the pressure on their elected officials to pass more stimulus measures soon. Pelosi has promised that the House will stay in session until another bill is passed, even if it has to postpone its Oct. 2 recess. If a bill does not pass, it could have catastrophic effects on millions of families, and on the American economy in general.prev