For those eagerly watching Washington for news of another coronavirus-related stimulus check, the last few weeks have been disappointing. There was little more than speculation to share as Congress has been on recess for the Fourth of July holiday.
That hiatus is coming to an end. Congress was back in session this week and lawmakers are raring to go on negotiating a fifth, and most likely final, pandemic relief bill.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that Republican leadership has been collaborating with the White House. The Kentucky Republican said in a recent appearance in his home state that he's "predicting we will have one more rescue package, which we'll begin to debate and discuss next week."
Here's what you need to know about your chances of getting more COVID-19-related stimulus funding.
The Senate won't take up the HEROES Act
The Senate has been the bottleneck in terms of passing more stimulus funds. In fact, the U.S. House of Representatives authorized a second stimulus check weeks ago with the passage of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act.
The HEROES Act would have sent stimulus checks to all Americans who received them before. It also would have expanded eligibility to include those who file taxes with Individual Taxpayer ID Numbers (ITINs), not just those with Social Security numbers. It also altered a few provisions of the first pandemic relief bill, the CARES Act. For example, the HEROES Act raised the amount dependents were worth from $500 to $1,200, and made adult dependents eligible.
Senate Republicans, however, objected to many provisions of the HEROES Act, including its $3.4 trillion price tag. The HEROES Act stands no chance of passage; it's dead on arrival. If the Senate passes something, it will be its own bill.
The next stimulus payment might help fewer Americans
If the HEROES Act had passed, the second stimulus check would have been close to 26% higher for the average American. But with Republicans looking to reduce the cost of the next stimulus bill, capping it at $1 trillion or less, it's far more likely the second stimulus check will be less generous.
In fact, there are a number of proposals out there that would see fewer people get the second check. McConnell floated the idea of capping adjusted income for the second payment at just $40,000, compared to the $75,000 threshold for single filers or $150,000 for married joint filers. Other Republicans have suggested providing money only to those who go back to work, while still others would prefer to provide targeted tax credits only for people who help get the economy going by traveling or dining.
Democrats are pushing for broader financial relief, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) saying, "I think families making over $40,000 probably need assistance."
With Republicans aiming to reduce the size of the second check and Democrats aiming to increase it, the most obvious compromise would be to simply repeat the CARES Act payments -- perhaps with new tweaks to ensure families with mixed immigration status can receive relief, as there's some bipartisan support for their inclusion.
Without a bill, everyone's financial situation could worsen
While lawmakers are far apart on their goals for a fifth novel coronavirus relief bill, the consequences could be catastrophic if one isn't passed.
COVID-19 cases are spiking, more states are closing down their economies again, unemployment is still at record highs, and expanded unemployment benefits are set to expire at the end of July -- which will leave millions of Americans getting just a fraction of their pre-COVID-19 income.
Without government help, the country could very well see a deepening recession or depression. And while the value of stocks trading on the market has, for the most part, recovered from the trillions of dollars of losses that occurred in March, investors could begin to lose confidence if it appears dysfunction in Washington, D.C., will leave citizens with no government aid and precipitate another economic disaster.