Congress could decide on a second wave of stimulus checks this month. If it passes, the package could be the last relief check coming to Americans as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s the update today and what could happen next.
Congress seems to be moving closer to a decision on a second round of economic stimulus payments for individuals and families, but details haven’t yet taken shape The US House of Representatives passed a fourth stimulus relief package last week by 208 votes to 199. The $3 trillion Heroes Act includes a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks, another $200 billion in hazard pay for essential workers, and six further months of COVID-19 unemployment along with other help for state and local assistance.
The HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act will still face significant opposition from the Republican-controlled Senate and the White House but if the bill fails to pass into law after debate on the floor of the upper house, a consensus compromise is still expected to be reached between Democrats and Republicans to provide hard-hit Americans with a second round of financial support sometime during May or possibly June at this rate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last Friday that if Congress does take up another round of stimulus payments, it will be the “final” one, CNBC reported. McConnell also said that senators could decide in “about a month” whether to move ahead with a second relief check, according to CNBC.
The first stimulus checks for up to $1,200 apiece were initially intended as a one-time payment to help the people and businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak. That includes people who couldn’t work because they got sick, received limited work hours or lost their jobs when businesses closed as a measure to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Now, with surging unemployment and a potential global recession ahead, some wonder if the first check did enough for individuals, families, businesses and those who are out of work and are looking at how best to distribute additional aid.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in its monthly assessment that 38.6 million Americans sought unemployment benefits (PDF) in the past 10 weeks. That number has reached 42 million people, CBS News reported last week.
Earlier this month, White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett projected that unemployment could reach 20% “by June.”
That appears to be the case already for Nevada, Hawaii and Michigan. During a recent Senate hearing, the Chair of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell called for additional economic relief. And earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund forecast a deep global recession that could become the worst since the Great Depression.
Some Members of Congress even sent a letter to the Treasury recommending high-tech options such as blockchain to help speed up delivery and offer transparency of the payments. However, the only technological move from Secretary Mnuchin appears to be allowing debit cards for now.
On the other hand, not only have Republican senators lined up to oppose the plan, Senate Democrats say they are concerned about what they see as a massive untargeted expense, The Hill reported.
“I’d like to take a look at all that aid we provided and get good economic information on the value for that, from the point of view of our economy but more importantly on fairness to people who are really hurt,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), a member of the Senate Finance Committee, told The Hill.
Cardin said rather than issue a second set of checks to all taxpayers, the government should focus on the households that have been hardest hit by COVID-19’s economic impact. As the Senate determines what the next bailout bill should look like, lawmakers in both parties are ranking their priorities. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) of the Finance Committee said she was not a fan of the checks.
“One-time payments are not what people need, she told The Hill. “What people need is a paycheck. They need ongoing income until this is done. That’s what they need.”