The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a financial crisis unlike any other Americans have experienced. Not only is the economy stuck in a recession, but the unemployment rate, as of July, is still in double-digit territory.
It's not just the jobless who are having a hard time making ends meet. Many households are struggling with income losses and added expenses, like having to pay for child care due to limited in-person learning at school. Many are desperate to get their hands on a second stimulus check.
Initially, it seemed as if lawmakers were on board with the idea of a second direct payment. It seemed likely that recipients would receive that extra cash at some point in September. But now, that money may not come until October -- if it arrives at all.
What's holding up those stimulus checks?
The initial stimulus payments that went out earlier in the year were authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act signed into law in late March. For a second round of payments to go out, lawmakers will need to agree on a second relief bill.
Right now, stimulus negotiations are deadlocked. Lawmakers are still struggling to agree on a number of key sticking points for that second deal, including boosting unemployment. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans recently released a new bill that's being dubbed a "skinny" relief package. The "skinny" stems from the fact that it omits a number of relief measures, including the second stimulus payment that lawmakers actually seemed to agree on from the start.
Americans won't necessarily get stuck with this stingy, stripped-down version. But it's likely that they will get stuck waiting until October for their stimulus payments. The Senate is currently on recess until Sept. 8. There's a chance that lawmakers will get called back to the Senate early, but that'll only happen if both sides manage to come to an agreement on a stimulus deal before then, which doesn't seem likely. Even if a stimulus payment makes it into the final bill, lawmakers will only first reconvene to talk about it in September, which means by the time the details are sorted out, it could take until October at the earliest to get that money into the hands of those who need it.
That's very bad news for the millions of jobless Americans who have not been privy to boosted unemployment benefits since late July. It's also bad news for those teetering on the edge of debt already.
Will there be a second stimulus check at all?
There's a good chance a second direct payment will make it into the final relief package lawmakers pass for one good reason: The economy actually does need to be stimulated. If Americans don't get that money, it could result in additional small business closures and other undesirable consequences that only prolong everyone's misery.
Lawmakers seemed intent on a second stimulus check earlier in the year, and there's really no reason for them to walk back that thinking. Americans shouldn't give up on a second stimulus check altogether; they may just need to give up on getting one next month.