After weeks of discussions, Senate Republicans on Monday revealed the HEALS Act, their stimulus package proposal in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and economic hardships it has caused. Although speculation had swarmed in the days leading up to the reveal regarding what would be included, the American people finally received confirmation that a second round of stimulus checks would be included — but what are the eligibility requirements for these direct payments?
Announcing the bill Monday, the GOP confirmed speculation that this next round of payments would take on a near-identical form as those passed under the CARES Act, with their plan also calling for a direct payment of $1,200 for eligible single filers and $2,400 for eligible joint filers. Just like the CARES Act, the HEALS (Health, Economic, Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools) Act also calls for $500 for dependents, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the HEALS Act will provide "more support" for those care for adult dependents, according to the Washington Post reporter Jeff Stein.
Similar to the CARES Act, which was signed by President Donald Trump in late March, this new bill would set income eligibility at $75,000 for single filers and $150,000 for joint filers. The total amount of stimulus checks will begin to phase out, with Forbes reporting of up to five percent for each dollar above, for those making more than those income levels. They will phase out completely for single filers with an adjusted gross income (AGI) up to $99,000 and joint filers with AGI up to $198,000. These numbers likely come as a relief to many Americans, as some Republicans had previously suggested an income cap of just $40,000.
However, there are some slight variations between the CARES Act and the HEALS Act when they pertain to stimulus payments, as the HEALS Act will expand some eligibility. While the first stimulus package capped payments for dependents to only include those under the age of 17, therefore excluding many, including college students, this new legislation will provide $500 per dependent, "regardless of age." Kyle Pomerleau of the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute estimated that this could expand eligibility to some 26 million dependents.
The HEALS Act also seeks to prevent the number of mistakes that were made as stimulus payments were distributed under the CARES Act. With more than a million payments having gone to deceased Americans, totaling $1.4 billion, new wording the HEALS Act would exclude anyone who died prior to January 1, 2020. The act also excludes "payments “to any individual in prison at the time Treasury processes the rebate."
The decision to follow a near-identical structure as the CARES Act likely has to do with the desire to have payments sent out as quickly as possible. It has been estimated that if the HEALS Act manages to make it through both bodies of Congress and to the president’s desk by Aug. 7, payments could begin going out as soon as late August.