Stimulus Checks: Why Payments Still Aren't Coming After 5 Months of Discussions

Nearly five months after discussions regarding the distribution of a second round of stimulus checks started on Capitol Hill, millions of Americans are still awaiting the much-needed financial aid. With much of the money from the first round of payments, passed under the CARES Act in late March and distributed by the Internal Revenue Service beginning in April, now dried up, what exactly is the reason for the delay on an additional round of payments?

Much of the delay largely has to do with Congress' failure to reach an agreement. Shortly after CARES Act's approval, a second round of stimulus checks gained bipartisan support, with President Donald Trump even eventually voicing his approval of the idea, though numerous stalls in negotiation talks, as well as the blocking of several relief bills, have ultimately led to that additional round of payments being delayed.

The first true hope for a second round of checks was sparked in May after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced the $3 trillion HEROES Act. Including, among other things, another round of $1,200 payments to most Americans, that bill quickly passed the House of Representatives, though it has remained stalled in the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to bring it to the floor for a vote. A second bill, dubbed the HEROES Act 2.0, that was introduced earlier this month has met the same fate. Meanwhile, the $1 trillion HEALS Act, introduced by the GOP in late July, also included a second round of payments, though negotiations on the bill have led nowhere.

Over the course of the past several months, agreement regarding another round of payments has fluctuated in respect as to who should receive them, how much they should be, and other eligibility standards. While the HEROES Act called for broader eligibility, including making individuals filing taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) eligible for stimulus relief, the HEROES Act was more limited. Moreover, in July, McConnell tossed the idea of an income cap eligibility being lowered to just $40,000. That idea was ultimately scrapped. Later that month, a group of Republican senators introduced a bill that calls for $1,000 stimulus checks for both adults and children.

While most proposals call for $1,200 stimulus payments for eligible individuals and payments still have bipartisan support from both lawmakers and the American people – a poll in September found that 70% of voters favored a relief bill that included another round of stimulus payments – much of the current delay has to do with an “impasse” in negotiations. This impasse largely has to do with disagreement over the price tag of an additional relief package as well as key issues, including Covid-19 testing, tracing and treatment. At this time, it remains unclear if an additional relief package will be approved.