For the millions of American families whose first COVID-19 stimulus payment has already been spent, the wait is on for a second check.
But if you've got your eyes on Washington, D.C., and are hoping lawmakers will come through to provide the funds you need to help you deal with the 2020 recession, there are five key things you need to know that affect the likelihood you'll get more cash.
1. The HEROES Act passed the House but can't pass the Senate
On May 15, a bill called the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES Act for short, passed the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Act would provide another $1,200 stimulus payment for each eligible adult, just as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act did. It also keeps the same income limits as the CARES Act, so you'd see any stimulus money coming your way reduced by $5 per $100 of income over the $75,000 in adjusted income cutoff for single filers, $112,500 for heads of household, or $150,000 for joint filers.
However, the HEROES Act also has some important differences. For one thing, it provides $1,200 per dependent, up to a maximum of three dependents, instead of the $500 per dependent the CARES Act offered. It also broadened the definition of dependents to include many who were excluded under the CARES Act, such as college students and elderly dependents.
However, Senate Republicans balked at the cost, as well as some other provisions in the Act related to state aid and expanded unemployment benefits. Because there are strong objections to the HEROES Act, it cannot pass the Senate, where Republicans hold the majority, so it will not become law.
2. There are multiple other stimulus proposals under consideration
The HEROES Act is the only one that has passed either branch of Congress, but it's far from the only proposal on the table. There are numerous others, including:
- The Emergency Money for the People Act, which would provide $2,000 in monthly payments for most Americans 16 and over as well as an additional $500 per each child up to three.
- The Explore America Tax Credit, which would provide a $4,000 tax credit for money spent on dining out and domestic travel.
- The Reopening America by Supporting Workers and Businesses Act of 2020, which would allow Americans who return to work to keep the extra $600 in unemployment benefits the CARES Act authorized. Workers who go back to work before the expanded unemployment benefits expire at the end of July would be able to get two extra weeks of these benefits, amounting to a $1,200 hiring bonus.
Unfortunately, none of the many competing proposals seem to be getting majority support, although some, such as the Explore America Tax Credit, have captured the attention of the Trump Administration.
3. The recent jobs report may have stalled momentum
A second stimulus check seemed all but certain when economists were predicting an additional 8 million jobs would be lost in May, on top of the 20.5 million lost in April. That would've meant Americans were looking at a 20% unemployment rate.
Instead, unemployment fell to 13.3%, down from 14.7% the prior month. While this was good news for workers who are back on the job or who kept their jobs, it was bad news for those hoping for more stimulus money. In fact, senior administration officials specifically commented that the good jobs numbers removed much of the urgency behind the push for another stimulus bill.
4. A fight over unemployment benefits could make a compromise bill harder
Lawmakers are divided over many issues with regards to the next coronavirus-related payment. One of the biggest is whether to continue expanded unemployment benefits.
As mentioned above, the CARES Act provided workers with an additional $600 in weekly unemployment income through the end of July. Democrats want to extend this through January 2021, while Republicans have strong objections to doing so, citing the fact that these extra benefits could slow economic recovery since workers who are getting more money on unemployment won't want to return to their jobs.
If lawmakers continue digging in their heels and can't come to a consensus on this issue, it could prevent any additional stimulus package from passing both chambers of Congress.
5. There's likely an Aug. 8 deadline for the passage of another stimulus bill
On Aug. 8, the Senate will be going on recess and not coming back until September. Unless there's a second wave of the coronavirus and more economic chaos, it's very unlikely lawmakers will consider more stimulus money so long after the first outbreak and so close to the 2020 election.
Because the timeline is so limited, you should act now if you're hoping for another check. Contact your representative, let them know which stimulus proposal you support, and explain why you feel more money is critical. There's still no guarantee more COVID-19 money will come, but making your voice heard could help make a difference in encouraging lawmakers to act.