Negotiations on a second stimulus check are well underway in Washington. And with Senate Republicans introducing their own stimulus bill as an alternative to the HEROES Act that the Democrat-controlled House passed, the likelihood is better than ever that Americans will see more coronavirus money arriving soon.
But nothing in Washington is a done deal until a bill is signed into law, and there are plenty of points of contention between Republicans and Democrats. Despite the challenges, however, the possibility is good that another bill will actually pass before July 31 to provide more pandemic relief.
Lawmakers can't just let expanded jobless benefits expire
Although the Senate doesn't go on recess again until Aug. 8 (so lawmakers theoretically have a little more time to act), there's a looming deadline this week: the end of expanded unemployment benefits.
The last coronavirus relief bill provided an extra $600 in weekly benefits for the millions of workers left unemployed by stay-at-home orders and business closures. This extra money is a lifeline with close to half the population without jobs and the average unemployment benefit providing around one-third of pre-pandemic income without the boost.
If lawmakers let expanded unemployment benefits expire without acting, millions of workers will see a huge drop in their take-home pay. And with more than half of all Americans saying they live paycheck to paycheck, life would get pretty rough. Unfortunately, a sudden drop in benefits could mean an inability to pay rent or make mortgage payments, much less to go out and spend money at businesses still open.
Unless lawmakers want to add foreclosure and eviction crises to the list of economic woes the country is facing, they simply aren't going to let these benefits expire without doing something to shore them up (although it's unlikely the full $600 in benefits will be extended, as the GOP is proposing less relief to avoid discouraging a return to work).
And while it's possible Congress could miss the July 31 deadline and still pass a bill later that retroactively helps the unemployed, this type of uncertainty isn't good for the economy or the stock market. People may miss bills in the meantime, and individuals and businesses will have no way of knowing if Washington will come through for them.
To avoid the consequences that could result, there's strong incentive for lawmakers to pass something before Friday. And with leaders on both the right and left actually in agreement that a second stimulus check is needed, it's almost certain to be included in any bill that passes.
Will you see more stimulus money?
Still, there are no guarantees of a second stimulus payment or what the earnings limits will be, so don't count on it until a bill has passed. Instead, make other plans if you need more cash coming in. If you haven't yet received your 2019 tax refund, hopefully that will help. There are also some other sources of aid available, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and some states are providing additional relief.
Ultimately, though, you only have control over your own money, not what lawmakers do. Limiting spending to essentials, bulking up your emergency fund, and reviewing your investment strategy are the three best options under the circumstances.