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Washington is already discussing a second round of stimulus payments for US taxpayers.


Angela Lang/CNET

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The US House of Representatives were set to vote Friday on a second coronavirus relief bill worth $3 trillion, which if signed into law would include another round of stimulus payments to individual Americans along with relief for businesses and the unemployed, the US Postal Service, states and coronavirus testing costs (you can view the bill here). The proposed relief package comes as the IRS is still sending stimulus checks of up to $1,200 per person to tens of millions of Americans for the first COVID-19 economic stimulus legislation, which amounted to $2 trillion.

Those economic impact payments, being issued by the IRS through direct deposit to banks and by checks in the mail, were introduced as part of a one-time payment designed to help curb the financial blow caused by the outbreak of COVID-19.

Now, the new stimulus bill to send a second tranche of stimulus checks in 2020 — called the HEROES Act — is being driven by 3 million new unemployment claims last week, bringing the total of first-time unemployment claims to more than 36 million people since mid-March, and a 14.7% unemployment rate in April, sending the country barreling toward a recession that economists predict globally could be the worst since the Great Depression. 

In the past few days, the idea of this bill has moved from a handful of future-looking conversations to proposed legislation brought to the House for a vote. Here’s what we know about a second round of stimulus payments in 2020 for individuals. This story updates frequently in light of new information, and is intended to provide an overview of the situation.


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Recap: The first coronavirus stimulus package

In an effort to blunt the financial effects of the coronavirus outbreak, President Donald Trump in March signed into law a $2 trillion economic stimulus package (technically a relief package) that included payments of up to $1,200 to eligible US taxpayers and $500 for each child age 16 or younger. The IRS began sending checks in the middle of April, and by the start of May had made more than 130 million payments. The rollout was bumpy, with some recipients wrestling with the tools the IRS provided to assist with signing up for and tracking their checks.

How much would the proposed coronavirus stimulus bill give to individuals, if passed?

The bill before the House right now — which Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats are calling the HEROES Act (PDF), according to a fact sheet from the House Appropriations Committee — includes a wide range of benefits, including a second direct payment to individuals and households. It’s suggested that the second bill, if signed into law, would provide a cash infusion of up to $1,200 per family member, with a cap of $6,000 per household.

In addition, it would carry over the current enhanced unemployment benefit of $600 per week (on top of the typical unemployment payout) to January 2021.

The argument in favor of another round of stimulus checks

The proposed legislation is a self-described “bold response to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic collapse,” according to the House fact sheet. The financial support is intended to “[cushion] the economic blow of the coronavirus crisis.” 

The goal of a second IRS stimulus check is in part “putting much-needed money in the pockets of the American people,” Speaker Pelosi said in a recorded statement. You can watch her speak about the legislation here. 

Since the middle of March, more than 33 million US workers who have lost their jobs have filed for unemployment. The actual number of unemployed since governors and mayors locked down their states and cities to stop the spread of coronavirus is likely higher — perhaps millions higher — because many who are eligible didn’t file a jobless claim. With the job losses, the nation’s unemployment rate reached 14.7%. The newly unemployed, along with others taking an economic hit from the pandemic, might benefit from having more money right now to spend. 

The argument against a second wave of relief payments

Some in Washington, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, question whether the relief measures have met their goals and want to tap the brakes before approving more federal spending to evaluate the effects of the already-approved relief packages. McConnell and others also worry how additional stimulus packages will increase the historic federal deficit.

“So let me state the obvious,” John Barasso, a Republican senator from Wyoming, tweeted on Tuesday. “What Nancy Pelosi is proposing will never pass the Senate.”

Because that payment is available in addition to regular jobless benefits and enhanced unemployment benefits of $600 per week, some critics have said it will make it harder to reduce unemployment ahead if people don’t feel incentivized to return to work. The original relief measure also provides a 15% boost in federal food assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

What the previous proposals for a second round of economic stimulus payments included

Instead of a one-time payment, some in Washington had argued a more effective way to assist struggling US taxpayers and stimulate the economy could be through payroll tax cuts that let workers hold on to more of their money each paycheck. 

President Trump had thrown his support behind this approach to get more dollars into taxpayer hands. “I want to see a payroll tax cut,” he said at a virtual town hall meeting earlier this month. “We’re not doing anything unless we get a payroll tax cut.” 

A payroll tax cut could help those with jobs but wouldn’t benefit anyone already out of work and without a paycheck, economists say.

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For many, the stimulus check will help pay for rent and groceries.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Others in Washington were looking at broader, long-term approaches to assist those staggered by the coronavirus economic crisis. Congressmen Ro Khanna and Tim Ryan, for example, proposed giving many US residents $2,000 a month for at least six months to see their households through the crisis. Sen. Mitt Romney proposed a similar plan for $1,000 a month, and Sen. Josh Hawley supported monthly payments to families with children. 

Taking a longer view, Sens. Kamala Harris, Ed Markey and Bernie Sanders introduced legislation that would provide a monthly $2,000 check till three months after the pandemic ends. Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Pramila Jayapal proposed extending payments for a year after the crisis ends.

What will happen next

The House is expected today, May 15, to vote on the bill, though “negotiations with Senate Republicans aren’t expected to start until later this month at the earliest,” according to The Wall Street Journal. It’s widely believed that Republicans will push back against the bill and may work with President Donald Trump on their own stimulus package.

While the future of a second stimulus bill remains undecided, we’d like to share available resources about unemployment insurance, what you can do if you’ve lost your job, what to know about evictions and late car payments and how to take control of your budget.

source: cnet.com

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