As the outcry for a second stimulus check grows louder for millions of Americans, many are looking now back on the timeline of the first round for an idea of how much longer they might be waiting. In March, the U.S. passed a historic stimulus package, which included direct payments to individual taxpayers. It was the largest stimulus package ever passed, yet many people are already in dire need of more.
The stimulus check most Americans received this spring was included in the CARES Act — the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The U.S. Congress passed the bill in March and directed the Treasury Department to send the money out to Americans via the IRS, using the payment information included in the most recent round of taxes. This is one area where a second stimulus check would theoretically come much fast — the IRS now has up-to-date payment information for most Americans. Still, there is a lot to consider with an operation of this size.
The CARES Act was not the U.S. government's first bill responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and it was never really expected to be the last. As the timeline for this crisis extends, so does the planning for relief measures — including more stimulus. Congress was ahead of schedule in this regard, passing the HEROES Act in mid-May, which could lead to another round of stimulus checks.
However, the United States Senate has yet to consider the HEROES Act, and it has been sitting in limbo ever since. The Senate is currently on a two-week recess and is expected to begin considering another stimulus package when they return on July 17. Still, there is doubt that what they consider will be the HEROES Act, as some senators intend to write their own legislation instead.
Either way, there is a process of negotiation that must take place before another stimulus check is passed. After that, the template left by the CARES Act may be more helpful, as it could show some of the logistical and bureaucratic hoops to jump through before the check reaches taxpayers' hands. Here is a refresher on the first stimulus check timeline.
CARES Act Origins
One reason the CARES Act rolled out so quickly is because it had already been written, revised and passed by Congress in 2019. The bill was based on legislation written by Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut, originally titled the Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act. The House passed this bill in January of 2019, but the Senate did not consider it until it was repurposed for the coronavirus pandemic.prevnext
The Senate passed the CARES Act in its new form in March, and the House quickly passed it again the following day in a voice vote. This trimmed down the negotiation time on revisions, with both sides making compromises that would have been surprising at any other time. The second stimulus check will not share this benefit, and many pundits see the slower pace on new legislation as a game of chicken between the two legislative bodies.prevnext
CARES Act Passed
The CARES Act was passed by legislators on March 25, 2020, and signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27. It was a massive $2.1 trillion spending package, all aimed at buoying the U.S. economy through the coronavirus pandemic. About $290 billion of that money went into stimulus checks, which the IRS began distributing on April 15. The first batch of direct deposit payments was received just under four weeks after the CARES Act was signed into law.prevnext
Americans who had up-to-date direct deposit banking information in their 2018 or 2019 taxes were the first to get their stimulus checks on April 15, 2020. According to the IRS, about 80 million payments went out this way with no problems. However, millions more needed to be sorted out.
The IRS was slower to distribute stimulus checks by mail, but again, taxpayers with an up-to-date mailing address in their most recent tax filing got their checks without a problem. The rest were expected to get update their information for the agency before their money could arrive.prevnext
Get My Payment
On April 15, the IRS launched a new web app called Get My Payment. It allowed taxpayers to enter new direct deposit banking information or a new mailing address to get their stimulus check. The site was plagued with some issues early on, and it was not updated as frequently as many struggling Americans would have liked, but it was essential to getting stimulus checks out to them.
While it was a source of frustration for many people, the Get My Payment app was seen as a technical feet for the IRS — an agency that was understaffed and under-equipped to roll out online services. However you felt about it back then, the app will hopefully play a much smaller role in the second stimulus check, since most Americans' information with the IRS is now up-to-date.prevnext
A number of factors caused delays with the first stimulus check — some that could happen again and some that might not. For one thing, the IRS was trying to distribute the first round of stimulus checks while simultaneously processing 2020 tax filings. Since the extended tax deadline is July 15, this should not be an issue for the second round.
The IRS also needed to gather payment information for groups that do not ordinarily receive a tax refund — social security beneficiaries, some disability beneficiaries and non-filers — people who are not required to file tax returns due to their low income. This, too, should be streamlined in the second round.prevnext
Finally, the IRS issued some stimulus checks on prepaid debit cards late in the process, and this might play a role in the second round as well. In May, the IRS stopped sending paper checks and instead began utilizing "EIP" cards, which were cheaper and faster to distribute. At the time, the Treasury Department hinted that this might be the way forward if a second stimulus check passed.0comments
"Prepaid debit cards are secure, easy to use, and allow us to deliver Americans their money quickly. Recipients can immediately activate and use the cards safely," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to a report by Business Insider.
It is not clear whether these cards would replace direct deposit payments as well. The Senate is expected to consider a second stimulus check when they return from recess on Friday, July 17.prev