The news that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have renewed discussions over a coronavirus pandemic relief bill — which would likely include stimulus checks — came as a relief to struggling Americans who have seen government assistance dwindle over the past few months. Many went from the $600-a-week unemployment supplements to the $300-a-week payments under Trump’s six-week Lost Wages Assistance Program as millions of low-income Americans — due to eligibility requirements — were left out of the LWA payments.
As the last weeks of LWA payments are running out (you can find a list of when payments are expected to be disbursed here), politicians are feeling a renewed sense of pressure to bring financial relief to families still suffering because of the pandemic’s economic effects.
There had been some concerns that debates over whether the Senate should be allowed to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg might hurt negotiations. There was also concern that worry over the national debt — which has traditionally been a conservative talking point — might hamper negotiations as Republicans were fighting to keep the price tag to $1.3 trillion or less.
In May, the House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act, and later in May, Republicans introduced the $1 trillion HEALS Act. Since then, Pelosi has offered to trim the Democrats’ bill by $800 billion while Republicans moved their estimate up by $300 billion, but neither side has been able to close the gap between $2.2 trillion and $1.3 trillion.
This time around, The Hill reported that Pelosi and Mnuchin have begun negotiating over a new bill that the House of Representatives could vote on as early as next week; optimistic projections suggest that a deal could be reached before the presidential election is held.
Mnuchin Said That Trump Still Wants Stimulus Checks
According to The Hill’s reporting, Mnuchin said that he has spoken to Pelosi multiple times as part of their consideration of a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown and on how best to move forward on a new pandemic relief bill. “I’ve probably spoken to Speaker Pelosi 15 or 20 times in the last few days on the CR and we’ve agreed to continue to have discussions about the CARES Act,” he said.
During Mnuchin’s recent testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, he said that Trump still wants Americans to receive $1,200 checks for individuals and $2,400 checks for married couples. “The president and I remain committed to providing support for American workers and businesses,” he said. Here are some of his remarks from that hearing:
I think the next package should be much more targeted and focused on kids and jobs and areas of the economy that are still hard hit, particularly areas such as the travel business, and others, restaurants. I think there (is) broad bipartisan support for extending the PPP to businesses that have had revenue drops for a second check. I think small businesses are a large priority of that.
The president and I remain committed to providing support for American workers and businesses. We continue to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis to pass a phase four relief program. I believe a targeted practice is still needed and the administration is ready to reach a bipartisan agreement.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has also said that he believes more checks are necessary for an economic recovery, according to Forbes. “Both employment and overall economic activity, however, remain well below their pre-pandemic levels, and the path ahead continues to be highly uncertain,” he said. “The downturn has not fallen equally on all Americans. Those least able to bear the burden have been the most affected.”
Pelosi & Democrats Are Putting Together a New COVID-19 Relief Bill
The Hill reported that Pelosi and Democrats are working on a new coronavirus relief bill that would cost about $2.2 trillion, which represents a reduction of $1.2 trillion from the Democrats’ original proposal and also represents $1.1 trillion increase from the Republicans’ most expensive proposal.
According to Business Insider, the new bill would include the following elements:
- $175 billion for renters and homeowners
- $1 trillion in aid going to local and state governments
- $75 billion in coronavirus testing and contract tracing
- Funding for $1,200 direct payments (with up to $6,000 going to one household)
The New York Times reported that it would also include assistance for restaurants and airlines and that Pelosi and top Democrats are still aiming towards holding a vote on the bill to push an agreement. “We are still striving for an agreement. If necessary, we can formalize the request by voting on it on the House floor,” she said.
Both Pelosi and the Republicans have been feeling pressure — Democrats have urged Pelosi to consider accepting a more piecemeal approach if it would make passing a bill more likely and Trump has asked Republicans to accept higher price tags if it would mean sending out more stimulus checks and reviving the economy, according to The Washington Post.
If a Bill Was Passed, When Would Your Check Arrive?
According to CNET, it is still possible to pass a bill before the November 3 presidential election is held. If a deal was reached in the month of October, CNET predicted the following dates of when Trump would sign it into law:
- If the Senate were to vote on October 2, the House would vote October 3 and the president would sign the bill October 4
- If the Senate were to vote on October 9, the House would then vote October 13 and the president would sign the bill October 14
- If the Senate were to vote on October 16, the House would then vote October 19 and the president would sign the bill October 20
- If the Senate were to vote on October 23, the House would then vote October 26 and the president would sign the bill October 27
CNET estimated that under a scenario where the president signs a bill during the week of October 4, the earliest payments would be distributed on October 12. Estimates for if Trump were to sign a bill into law October 14 put checks being distributed on October 19 at the earliest. Even a bill signed by the president as late as December 9 could still mean checks would be distributed before the end of the year.
Fortunately, the rollout is expected to be smoother than the rollout of payments for the LWA program, which required states to develop a new technological infrastructure to verify eligibility, prevent fraud and distribute the payments. California was recently forced to temporarily shut down its entire unemployment system after a scathing report revealed multiple logistical and operational holes in its program infrastructure.