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4 Obstacles Standing in the Way of a Second Stimulus Check

By Christy Bieber – Jul 1, 2020 at 8:01AM

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Will they prevent you from getting more COVID-19 money?

Americans may be feeling hopeful about the possibility of getting more COVID-19 money as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have expressed some support for sending out a second pandemic stimulus check.

But while the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) passed swiftly and the IRS sent out millions of checks within months, things aren't going nearly as smoothly this time around. 

In fact, there are four big obstacles to getting a second payment even as the country officially enters a recession and millions remain unemployed. Here's what they are. 

U.S. Capitol Building

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Disagreement over the cost of a bill

With the price tag of the first four novel coronavirus bills topping $2.4 trillion, it's perhaps no surprise that some lawmakers are becoming worried about how much virus relief is costing. Unfortunately, fiscal concerns might hold back a second stimulus bill. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed that the cost of the next stimulus bill cannot exceed $1 trillion , and the White House appears to also have that number in mind.

The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is envisioning something much larger. In fact, the House already passed the HEROES Act, with a price tag of around $3 trillion. 

With lawmakers $2 trillion apart on what they want to spend, coming to a compromise will be a challenge -- especially if Democrats are unwilling to sign off on a bill that doesn't include some of their key priorities, such as financial relief to states that have seen a dramatic loss in tax revenue. 

2. Numerous competing proposals

Everyone has different ideas about how another check should be structured.

There are now more than half a dozen proposals for more stimulus money, including the HEROES Act, which provides up to $1,200 for each adult and each dependent up to a maximum of three; a payroll tax holiday; a bill allowing those who go back to work to continue getting $600 in weekly unemployment benefits for an extra two weeks; a bill to cancel rent and mortgage payments; a $4,000 tax credit for domestic travel and dining; and the Emergency Money for the People Act that would provide ongoing stimulus payments

The problem is that there's no consensus forming behind any of these bills. The HEROES Act passed the House largely along party lines, although 14 Democrats defected and voted against the bill. It has no chance of passage in the Republican-controlled Senate. 

Unless lawmakers can actually come to some agreement about who should get a second payment and how much it should be, it's very likely none of these different proposals will actually become law. 

3. Conflict over ITIN holders

The first stimulus payment under the CARES Act was available only to people with Social Security numbers. It left out families with mixed immigration status, as a citizen with a Social Security number who filed jointly with a spouse using an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) couldn't receive stimulus funds. 

Democrats want to change that next time around, allowing those with ITINs to receive payments. This would come at a cost of around $9.4 billion. The HEROES Act also makes payments retroactively available to those who missed out under the CARES Act, adding another $7 billion to the tab.

This could result in some undocumented workers getting stimulus funds. Democrats argue that this is appropriate because these individuals pay taxes, but with President Trump's strong stance on immigration, getting those on the right to sign on will be a tough sell.

4. A short timeline

The Senate will recess for Independence Day starting July 3 and won't be back until July 20. It will recess again on Aug. 8 and won't be back in session until Sept. 8.

By then, the election will be the issue at the forefront with less than two months until the country decides who should become the next president.

That doesn't leave much time for Congress to come to a consensus and actually pass a bill with a trillion-dollar price tag.

Don't hold your breath 

Lawmakers very well could overcome these obstacles and provide another COVID-19 check -- especially if there's more bad economic news coming down the pipeline, or if the number of COVID-19 cases spikes and fears of a second wave increase. That's far from guaranteed, though, as there are serious and fundamental disagreements among lawmakers on how to proceed. 

If you don't get more coronavirus money, you'll want to be sure to use the check you did receive as wisely as possible. The right way to do that depends on your situation, but you should generally make certain your immediate needs are met first, shore up your emergency fund if you don't yet have enough saved, or consider investing the funds if you don't need them within the next few years. The first payment was too small to do much, but it may be the only one you get -- so make the most of it. 

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