Second Stimulus Check: Should Americans Give Up Hope?

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Photo Credit: Alexander Mils

With negotiations at a standstill in Congress, many Americans have ceased asking when the second stimulus check will arrive. Instead, they’ve started asking whether the $1,200 checks will ever materialize. 

We’ve covered the endless Congressional debates over the second stimulus check, including agreements on details like payout amount ($1,200) and terms (slightly better than the first stimulus check). But endless bickering between Senate Republicans and House Democrats is now threatening to erase all of that progress, and kill the second stimulus check for good.

Meanwhile, a number of business sectors remain crippled by COVID-19 lockdowns. Traditional concerts (and even some socially distanced shows) are still on ice in many parts of the U.S., while traditional retail and restaurants remain severely challenged.  Those situations are making it hard for millions of Americans to find work, despite signs of an economic recovery.

In early July, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suggested that the second stimulus check could be limited to those who earned $40,000 per year or less pre-pandemic.  As talks proceeded, however, this preliminary proposal gave way for a similar collection of requirements as the stimulus payments distributed through the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. 

Here’s where the requirements stood just weeks ago.

Individuals earning less than $75,000 annually, as well as couples earning less than $150,000 per year, were to receive a $1,200 or $2,400 second stimulus check, respectively. As before, second stimulus payments would likely be gradually decreased for those making above $75,000, capping out at $99,000 for individuals (and couples earning over $198,000).

Unlike the initial checks, though, the potential second stimulus check was set to include a $500-per-dependent bonus regardless of age. Under the CARES Act, $500 bonuses were provided only for individuals age 17 and below (thereby excluding college-age and senior dependents).

Ahead of the July 31st expiration of the CARES Act’s $600 weekly unemployment bonus, all signs indicated that a second stimulus check was forthcoming. However, disagreements ultimately prevented the checks from being quickly approved.(President Trump subsequently established $300 federal unemployment bonuses via executive order; thus far, 26 states have been approved for the supplemental compensation, which unemployed persons will receive in addition to their regular aid.) 

Both sides have agreed to allocate a second stimulus check in the new economic-relief legislation. But they haven’t come to terms on the bill’s other elements – including, most broadly, its value.

The House previously passed the $3.3 trillion HEROES Act and used the legislation as a starting point in negotiations; the Senate, for its part, has pushed for the $1.3 trillion HEALS Act. Perhaps the biggest obstacle within this $1.7 trillion or so differential is the HEROES Act’s nearly $1 trillion in state and local aid, which Senate Republicans oppose.

Despite the prolonged impasse, some signs suggest that a second stimulus check isn’t outside the realm of possibility. First, as mentioned, the House, Senate, and White House do in fact support the payments, and it’s easy to overlook this significant detail amid the present deadlock.

Also, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows specified the current across-the-aisle stimulus legislation agreements today, making clear that legislators and the White House agree on much more than the new round of checks. These shared opinions could lay the foundation for a new economic-relief package – and, in turn, a second stimulus check – once talks resume in earnest.

More as this develops.