by Angelica Leicht | Feb. 22, 2021
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Waiting for news on the $1,400 stimulus direct payments? Lawmakers will vote on the stimulus checks and other important package provisions this week.
As Americans await news from lawmakers on President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package, it's becoming more and more clear how dire the cash infusion is to the economy. New employment claims were up nearly 10% last week over the week prior, with new claims totaling 861,000 last week alone.
That brings the total number of out-of-work Americans to about 18.3 million people, which is a massive jump from the Jan. 30, 2020 total of 2.1 million. That jump is further evidence of the hit the economy continues to sustain from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has ravaged the job market and forced layoffs across all sectors of the economy.
Millions of Americans are now banking on the $1,400 proposed direct payment stimulus checks that are being negotiated as part of the stimulus package to help pay bills, buy groceries, and boost low bank account balances until the economy recovers. Luckily, there could be some significant movement on that package this week when House lawmakers formally vote on the package.
The stimulus money may be long overdue for households struggling to make ends meet, but the good news is that the vote to advance the package to the Senate will happen sometime this week. While that is not going to push the bill into law, it is one major hurdle that the package needs to clear.
And, if the package advances after the vote, it is likely to move quickly through the Senate. According to numerous reports, Democratic leaders in the Senate are reportedly ready and willing to move the package to a vote at an extremely fast pace, in part because they would bypass having various Senate committees sign off on the bill beforehand.
"The Senate is on track to send a robust $1.9 trillion package to the president's desk before the March 14 expiration of Unemployment Insurance benefits. We will meet this deadline," Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated in a letter sent to Senate Democrats on Friday.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also noted the urgency behind the package, stating in recent weeks that the goal is to get the relief package signed into law before the middle of March. That March deadline is important because it's when unemployment benefits are set to expire for most people currently receiving unemployment aid.
"I feel as if we've worked the staff 24/7 for a number of weeks now to make sure that we stay on schedule with the American Rescue Plan, the Biden plan," Pelosi told reporters during a press conference late last week.
While the bill will still have a long way to go to become law, the nearly 600-page COVID relief package is aimed to provide comprehensive financial relief to struggling Americans.
One of the key provisions in this bill is the $1,400 direct payment stimulus checks that would go to qualifying Americans and their dependents if passed during the House vote this week. The direct payments would be for up to $1,400 for single eligible Americans and up to $5,600 for an eligible family of four.
Under the current proposal, individuals earning $75,000 or less and married couples earning $150,000 or less would be eligible to get a full stimulus payment. From there, the stimulus checks would begin to phase out and eventually stop for higher earners. If passed, this round would likely exclude individuals earning $100,000 or more and married couples earning $200,000 or more.
President Biden addressed the country with a short video about the proposed stimulus payments on Friday, stating: "We committed to you, Democrat and Republican, a $2,000 stimulus check. $600 came forward last time around. Another $1,400 will be coming."
Whether that happens remains to be seen, though. House committees spent the last few weeks hammering out the details of the proposed stimulus package, but the bill will have to pass the full House vote this week before it gets to the final stages with lawmakers.
This package also includes a lot more than the proposed $1,400 direct payments. In addition to the checks, it includes an expansion and increase to the weekly federal unemployment boost of $400 per week through Aug. 29. The current unemployment compensation benefits are set to end in mid-March, so if this package advances, it could help make up for the loss that unemployed Americans will face in just a few weeks time.
The House stimulus bill also boosts food stamps for struggling Americans, and would put an extra 15% worth of food stamp benefits into the pockets of those who qualify. These benefits would last through September under the new bill. The current expanded benefits are set to end in June.
Other key provisions in the bill include extra money for the WIC program, which would receive an extra $880 million and allow for the continuation of the Pandemic-EBT programs on a state-by-state basis.
There would also likely be an expansion of the Child Tax Credit to $3,600 for children under age six and $3,000 for children under age 18. Unlike other tax credits for children, this one would split payments up monthly, adding extra cash to the pockets of parents in need of some help.
Another $19.1 billion would go to state and local governments for housing assistance to help cover late rent payments, rental assistance programs, utilities, and other housing assistance to unemployed, at-risk, or low-income households. There is another $10 billion for mortgage payment assistance that is earmarked for states and tribes, and another $11 billion for rental assistance and other support services for the homeless.
Other notable benefits include $350 billion in financial aid to state and local governments, tribes, and territories, as well as $14 billion for vaccines and $46 billion for testing, contact tracing, and mitigation.
There's more good news here, too. While it's impossible to nail down exact dates for the $1,400 stimulus payments to roll out, the IRS has said that if the relief package is signed into law, it plans to issue the stimulus payments as quickly as possible.
What does that mean for you and your finances? Well, it could mean that the money hits your bank account in a matter of days or weeks after the relief package is signed into law. It took the IRS about 19 days to issue millions of checks after the first stimulus bill's passage, and it only took about three weeks for the second round of stimulus checks to be sent out to the majority of eligible Americans.
Chances are good that we'd see a similar timeline with this third round of checks, should they pass the hurdles this week and in coming weeks in the Senate.
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