While the job market has steadily improved since its springtime lows, the unemployment rate is still alarmingly high (10.2% in July) thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, and many Americans are still struggling to make ends meet.
The first $1,200 stimulus check was deposited all the way back in April thanks to the CARES Act. The good news is the federal government is working on another piece of legislation to help Americans get through the crisis — and most legislators agree it should include a second $1,200 stimulus check. So far, the eligibility requirements for the new check seem virtually identical to the CARES Act, so if you qualified for the first stimulus check, it is very likely you’ll qualify for the second.
Paul Miller, a certified public accountant and owner of Miller & Company, LLP, says that while some parts of the CARES Act didn’t work, the sections related to business generally did. “I can speak for what I have seen first-hand from my clients,” he said. “It definitely helped save businesses and enabled them to pay bills and gave owners a feeling that they will make it.”
So, what’s in the new stimulus package? As of this writing, Democrats and Republicans are still fighting over the details, but here’s everything we know.
The House of Representatives passed the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act in May on a largely party-line vote. The 1,800-page piece of legislation included a second round of $1,200 stimulus payments, and would also extend the $600 in weekly federal unemployment benefits until January 2021. The Act also provides $75 billion in mortgage relief, $100 billion for rental assistance and another $10 billion for the PPP.
But the HEROES Act failed to receive support in the Senate, where Republicans criticized it as a “liberal wishlist” that was “dead on arrival.”
The HEALS Act
On July 27, Senate Republicans and the White House released their response to the Democratic proposal, the HEALS Act. For starters, the payroll tax cut pushed by President Trump is officially off the table. A point Republicans and Democrats seem to agree on is the $1,200 stimulus payments, but Republicans want to scale back the additional federal unemployment benefits from a flat rate of $600 per week to a formula that would replace 70% of workers’ lost wages through a combination of state and federal unemployment benefits.
As of this writing, Congress is still battling over the details. But regardless of what goes in the final bill, Miller says it’s important that Congress and the President come together to find a solution. “The majority of Americans are super anxious about their jobs, this disease and how they are going to survive it all,” he says. “They [Congress, President] must give Americans hope and tell them ‘we will continue to support you.’”
What do they agree on?
There seems to be agreement on both sides about the need for another round of stimulus checks, as well as the continuation of federal unemployment benefits. Republicans and Democrats both want to invest more in the PPP. Republicans also want to put liability protections in place for businesses whose employees are infected with coronavirus while on the job, a plan Democrats oppose.
Both parties want to distribute money to schools, but Republicans want to tie at least some of that aid to whether a school decides to open for face-to-face instruction. Democrats are in favor of assisting state and local governments. The current Republican plan doesn’t include language regarding mortgage or rental assistance.
Recently, both parties have also agreed this round of stimulus checks should be deposited and mailed faster than the first check in April. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says he will “start printing [stimulus checks] the following week” after Congress agrees on a new stimulus package that President Trump signs into law. “I could have them out immediately,” he says (which is…not the same thing as printing them the following week, but…).
Too long, didn’t read?
If you qualified for the first $1,200 stimulus, it highly likely you will receive another $1,200 check sometime later this summer or fall, depending on how quickly Congress and the White House can find a compromise. Democrats and Republicans agree on the need for another round of stimulus payments and want to extend federal unemployment benefits, but don’t agree on how this should be achieved. The two sides also disagree on how to allocate money to the schools and how much, if any, funds should be given to state and local governments.