The U.S. government is about to send checks — or direct deposits — to most Americans to help people survive financially this winter until coronavirus vaccines are more widely available.
A bipartisan deal that President Trump signed Sunday will provide $600 “Economic Impact Payments” to adults with annual incomes up to $75,000, plus another $600 per child. Some Americans earning more than $75,000 will also receive money if they meet certain qualifications outlined below. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he hopes to start sending out payments swiftly.
What is different in the second round?
A second round of stimulus checks had been expected to land in the bank accounts of millions of Americans as soon as next week, thanks to the $900 billion economic relief package that Congress passed Monday night.
But President Donald Trump's sudden insistence Tuesday that lawmakers boost the bill's $600 stimulus checks to $2,000 per person is now throwing the timing and amount of the checks into question.
The upheaval comes after Congress added $600 per-person checks into the bill during last-minute negotiations, an amount that had been decried as too low by some lawmakers, such as Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent, and Josh Hawley of Missouri, a Republican.
Mr. Trump seemed to agree with the critics, saying in a video posted to Twitter on December 22 that he would not sign the economic relief package, calling the stimulus checks "ridiculously low."
"I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 dollars to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple," Mr. Trump said in the recorded message.
The $600 checks directed by the relief bill would represent half of the $1,200 directed toward most adults in the first round of stimulus checks. Critics had said the aid would be helpful, but not enough to tide over families who have suffered income or job losses since the coronavirus pandemic shuttered the economy in March and caused unemployment to spike.
Almost 6 in 10 consumers say they have suffered a financial hit due to the pandemic as of the end of November, according to a recent study from TransUnion, which also found that 40% of those households had been banking on the prospect of another stimulus check to help them pay their bills.
Mr. Trump's pushback is raising new questions for millions of Americans who are awaiting the next round of checks.
How likely are $2,000 checks?
Democrats are backing Mr. Trump's request for $2,000 checks — but it's not clear how many Republicans will join in because the proposal for bigger payouts would cost an estimated $530 billion, or about $385 billion more than what Congress approved with the $600 checks, according to Heights Securities
House Democrats said they plan to offer a stimulus bill for $2,000 stimulus checks this Thursday, and will attempt to pass it via unanimous consent since no one will be on the floor to vote. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday night tweeted in support of the $2,000 checks, writing, "Let's do it!"
She added that Republicans had "repeatedly refused to say what amount the President wanted for direct checks" during the lengthy negotiations.
Wall Street analysts say they believe it's most likely that the current bill — with $600 checks, approved by big bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress — will move forward
What about the $600 checks?
For now, some analysts say it's most likely that the bill with $600 checks will move forward, although the path is "complicated," said Mills of Raymond James.
The checks would represent half of the amount directed to most U.S. households in the spring, when the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (or CARES Act) authorized $1,200 checks for eligible adults.
However, under the bill passed by Congress, one group of people would receive more money in the second round of stimulus checks than the first: dependent children, who would receive the same $600 checks as adults, up from the $500 checks that children received through the CARES Act in the spring.
Single people earning up to $75,000 would receive $600, while married couples earning up to $150,000 would receive $1,200.
The second round of checks would have the same type of income phaseouts as in the CARES Act, with the stimulus check payments reduced for earnings above $75,000 per single person or $150,000 per married couple.