Millions of Americans have been waiting to see if a second round of stimulus checks are going to be sent out, likely as a part of another comprehensive legislative package. The $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which green-lit the first round of stimulus checks, passed on March 27. The $3 trillion HEROES Act, which includes an additional round of payments that would max out at a potential $6,000 per family, passed the House on May 15 before stalling in the Senate.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate Majority Leader, had been signaling that the legislation was dead in the water. On Tuesday, though, he told reporters that Congress will "probably" have to pass more stimulus measures, including potentially a second round of economic impact payments, or stimulus checks for individual households. The White House has also indicated in recent days that it backs more stimulus payments.
McConnell said that he and his colleagues in the Senate will decide what to do "in the next few weeks."
It's been nearly two months since the first round of $1,200 stimulus checks started going out to U.S. households. Since then, there's been little indication that more help would be on the way, though tens of millions have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. Unemployment is now at 14.7%, and 38 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits over the past nine weeks.
Many Americans are on edge: The first round of checks didn't last long in many households, and augmented unemployment benefits, including the extra $600 per-week benefit, are set to expire at the end of July.
And many Americans are clamoring for more help from the government: Eighty-four percent of Americans want a second stimulus check, according to a WalletHub survey from April.
Video by Jason Armesto
House Democrats took action, passing the HEROES Act a couple of weeks ago. That bill would include a second wave of stimulus checks, with some households getting as much as $6,000.
But Republicans, who hold a majority in the Senate, have not yet taken the Act up for a vote or made clear that they ever will. Previously, McConnell and other Republican leaders, including officials in the White House, have gone back and forth on the question of whether additional stimulus measures would even be needed.
Given McConnell's latest comments, it seems likely that the Senate will come up with its own bill, try to pass it, and send it to the House to be voted on. For any bill to become law, it would have to pass in both the House and Senate and then be signed by President Trump.
Several issues need to be ironed out for the House and Senate to compromise on a bill and get it to the president's desk.
The HEROES Act, for example, includes many stipulations that increase and extend some of the heftier stimulus measures included in earlier stimulus packages. Those include:
- An extension of the $600-per-week federal unemployment insurance benefit through January, which is currently set to expire in July
- About $200 billion for hazard pay for essential workers who face heightened health risks during the crisis
- $175 billion in rent, mortgage, and utility assistance
- Subsidies and a special Affordable Care Act enrollment period to people who lose their employer-sponsored health coverage
- More money for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, including a 15% increase in the maximum benefit
The main concern about the HEROES Act and stipulations such as these, among Republicans, is the cost. Because the HEROES Act totals up to more than $3 trillion in additional stimulus — on top of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act — concerned conservative lawmakers have said that they won't support the legislation in its current form.
Video by David Fang
Another point of contention is the extra $600 per week that unemployed workers are currently getting through the end of July. Democrats want to extend that until January, but Republicans, including President Trump, are opposed. They worry that extending those benefits will keep workers out of the workforce longer than necessary.
One of the Senate's top priorities is to create an incentive to get people to go to work again, McConnell told Fox News last week. "To pay people more not to work than to work doesn't encourage resuming your job," he said. "And that will end in July. And we think that in order to create jobs, we need to incentivize people to go back to work, not encourage them to stay home."
McConnell has also been adamant that he wants liability protection for employers, which would shield them from lawsuits if employees who return to work subsequently get sick.
While Republicans, just a week ago, were not convinced that another stimulus bill would be necessary, McConnell's comments on Tuesday signal that they're changing their stance, which may be a good thing for struggling households.
"The first round of [stimulus] checks were sorely needed, but the consensus is that it wasn't going to last people very long," Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate, recently told Grow. "There are households in definite need, and will be for some time to come."
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