WASHINGTON – If you were hoping for another stimulus check from the federal government, you might be in luck.
Well, some of you might be in luck.
Congressional leaders are hoping to have another coronavirus aid package ready by the end of the month, another tranche of funds to pile on to the stunning $3 trillion already passed to counter the pandemic and its sweeping impacts on the country.
But while both sides of the aisle agree more funds will be necessary to help families, workers, businesses and the country’s economy recover, Republicans, Democrats and the administration still have significantly different ideas of what should be included in the next package, including the possibility of another stimulus check for some Americans.
Congress and the administration will have to work through their issues as coronavirus continues to spike in states across the U.S. and as crucial enhanced unemployment insurance benefits, which have helped millions of Americans stay afloat, are set to dry up in about two weeks.
Here’s the latest on what the next coronavirus package could look like and the issues both parties have made a priority.
Democrats and Republicans may have different ideas about what should be included in the next coronavirus aid package, but on this much they seem to agree: Many Americans need another stimulus check to help them bounce back from the economic hardships caused by the pandemic.
The sticking point: Who should get those checks and how big they should be.
President Donald Trump already has signaled his support for additional cash payments as part of the next recovery package. The House already has passed a Democratic bill calling for a second round of direct payments of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for joint filers. Senate Republicans also appear to be on board with an additional round of stimulus payments, although they want to limit who could qualify.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested distributing the money to people who earn $40,000 or less per year, arguing they would benefit the most from another round of stimulus payments. Forty percent of Americans earning less than $40,000 a year lost their jobs in March, which means the economic burden of the coronavirus has fallen most on those who are least able to bear it, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told lawmakers in May.
But House Democrats are unlikely to go along with a cap that low. Their bill, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act, calls for the next round of $1,200 stimulus payments to go to Americans earning less than $75,000 a year.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., did not dismiss McConnell’s plan outright but questioned the cap being at $40,000.
“I think there are many families depending on size of family and so many different things, that the $40,000 would have to be explained, justified and the rest,” she said last week at a news conference. “But I think families making over $40,000 probably need assistance. Again, just depending on their family situation.”
The first round of stimulus payments, sent out earlier this year, went to individuals with an adjusted gross income of $75,000 ($150,000 for joint filers). More than 159 million checks totaling $267 billion were distributed, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
The number of checks to be distributed in the next round will be far lower if the $40,000 income threshold is applied.
For months, millions of Americans who lost their jobs due to the pandemic have been able to collect an additional $600 weekly in unemployment insurance. But at the end of the month, that boost will expire.
Republicans have long argued that the $600 boost was too high and a disincentive for Americans to go back to work as states work to cautiously reopen. Democrats have said the program should be renewed and pointed to the still high unemployment rate – currently 11.1% – and the spike in cases seen across the nation.
“We must renew unemployment insurance,” Pelosi said last week at her weekly news conference, noting the continued high numbers of Americans on unemployment. “We have to put the money in the pockets of people.”
Republicans have floated a variety of options that include reforming the enhanced benefits or even replacing them with a back-to-work bonus, but are not keen to continue the $600 program.
“We’d like to see some unemployment reforms,” Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, told Fox News on Monday. “We’d like a return-to-work-type bonus of a modest nature. We don’t want to give people disincentives.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has led coronavirus relief negotiations for the administration on the hill, echoed an openness to reforms and told CNBC that the program will not be done “in the same way.”
Dozens of other provisions also could make their way into the stimulus package. Republicans, Democrats and the administration have made differing proposals a priority that could pose additional hurdles as sides work to negotiate.
House Democrats already passed a $3 trillion measure in May that outlines their priorities in the next phase of emergency funding. McConnell has said the bill is a non-starter and that Senate Republicans are drafting their own proposal to act as a starting point for negotiations, a measure that is likely to cost much less.
Both the House and the Senate are on recess this week, but McConnell said he would start discussing the draft with his members and Democrats when they return next week.
“I think you can anticipate this coming to a head sometime within the next three weeks,” he said Monday in Kentucky.
House Democrats have similarly stressed an urgency to get a bill to the president’s desk. Pelosi said on CNN Tuesday that she would delay the House’s August recess to ensure enough time to work through negotiations.
“We absolutely have to. We also have to come to an agreement,” she said. “The timetable is the timetable of the American people needing their Unemployment Insurance, their direct payments, their assistance for rent and mortgage foreclosure forbearance.”
Other issues on the negotiating table include:
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