by Maurie Backman | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on Dec. 24, 2020
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A more robust round of stimulus payments may not happen after all.
On Christmas Eve, House Republicans blocked a Democratic effort to send a round of $2,000 stimulus checks to the public. Earlier in the week, lawmakers passed a $900 billion relief bill that included stimulus checks in the amount of $600 per person (to be clear, both adults and dependents are entitled to that sum). That's half the amount Americans were entitled to under late March's CARES Act. The new bill also included other key provisions like rental assistance, boosted unemployment benefits, and a second round of funding for the Paycheck Protection Program, which saved thousands of jobs earlier in the year and prevented a large number of small businesses from having to close their doors permanently.
The idea for those $2,000 stimulus payments actually came from President Trump himself, who expressed disappointment with the $600 payments lawmakers had landed on. Democrats have long supported a more generous relief package than Republicans, but Republicans have shut the measure down in an effort to cut costs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, has called on Trump to rally Republican support for his proposal. But for now, it's a no-go.
There was a point when stimulus checks weren't even on the table, so in that regard, $600 direct payments are far better than no payments at all. But they also fall short of the relief so many Americans need.
In the course of the coronavirus pandemic, millions of Americans have been laid off or seen their hours and income reduced. Many people have depleted their savings accounts in an attempt to keep up with their bills, and a large number have racked up significant debt.
Let's also not forget that school districts throughout the country have maintained a remote learning schedule since March, leaving many parents to either quit their jobs or alter their schedules in the absence of adequate childcare. All of this speaks to a very real need for significant aid, so to offer Americans $600 payments after months of congressional gridlock does not seem equitable.
At this point, Trump may seek to veto the $900 billion aid package lawmakers finally managed to agree on at the start of the week -- but it's not clear if he'll actually do so. There's also talk that lawmakers will seek to pass an additional aid package once President-Elect Joe Biden takes office in January.
Either way, Americans need help immediately, and at this point, $600 is far better than no aid at all. While Trump may choose to take a stand by refusing to sign the new stimulus bill, ultimately, that could hurt the public even more. Even if a bill were to be passed immediately, it would take time to get those stimulus checks into people's bank accounts (and even longer to mail out physical checks), so at this point, any delay could be catastrophic.
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