Second stimulus check and $ 300 unemployment benefit: what’s in the new COVID-19 aid package
Over the weekend, lawmakers reached agreement on the first major coronavirus stimulus bill since the CARES law in March, ending months of persistent deadlock and round-trip negotiations before the expiration of relief programs crucial to the financial survival of Americans during the pandemic.
The House of Representatives and Senate are set to vote on Monday on a roughly $ 900 billion bill that would send another round of stimulus checks totaling $ 600 to most Americans, replenish a small business loan program and increase unemployment benefits an additional $ 300 per week until March. The bill would also ensure that concert workers, self-employed workers and generally ineligible contract workers continue to receive unemployment checks, preventing the program from expiring at the end of the year.
The bill also provides support for rental assistance programs and a moratorium on evictions, child care, food stamps and nutritional benefits, and education. Lawmakers have left out the liability protections favored by Republicans and state and local government aid favored by Democrats that have been the source of a major standoff.
Here’s what you need to know about the provisions of the bill and how long it could seep into your wallet.
New $ 600 (or more) stimulus check: how much and who is eligible?
Most Americans who received a stimulus check for the first time would be eligible for the next $ 600 check, although Americans with dependent children would receive slightly more than the first round.
Based on the 2019 tax year, individuals earning up to $ 75,000 per year and couples with incomes below $ 150,000 would be eligible for the full payment of $ 600 or $ 1,200, respectively. These checks would increase by $ 600 for each dependent child (up from $ 500 in the first round of economic impact payments in March).
A family of four would receive $ 2,400 in direct payments, according to summaries from lawmakers.
Reduced checks would be paid to people earning up to $ 99,000 a year and married couples earning up to $ 198,000. When the first set of stimulus checks went out, they dropped $ 5 for every $ 100 over the $ 75,000 or $ 150,000 limit.
Incarcerated people could receive both the second stimulus check and the first retroactively after a California judge ruled that the IRS could not exclude jailed people from receiving a check.
People who live in a joint household with immigration status (people with an individual tax identification number, or ITIN) would also be eligible for both a second check and a retroactive first check. Democrats lobbied for this eligibility requirement in the HEROES Act, and Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, was also a major supporter.
$ 300 extra in weekly unemployment checks: who is eligible and for how long?
The bill includes $ 120 billion in funding for Unemployment Insurance (UI), which would be used to help all Americans who receive benefits receive an additional $ 300 each week through March 14, 2021, according to a summary of the bill drafted by the legislator. Americans whose incomes are based on self-employment as well as a regular salary would receive an additional $ 100 each week, to account for basic calculations of UI benefits without considering their self-employment.
Two other key unemployment programs – Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Emergency Pandemic Compensation (PEUC) – would also be reinstated through the Relief Bill, the first being responsible for ensuring that Americans in non-traditional jobs receive weekly checks and the second ensuring that Americans can still receive funds if they have already exhausted their regular state benefits.
The bill also increases the maximum number of weeks that a person can claim regular unemployment benefits from the state plus the PEUC program, or through the PUA program, to 50 weeks, from 39 weeks guaranteed by the CARES law.
The CARES Act increased weekly benefits by $ 600 for an additional 13 weeks and helped generally ineligible workers, freelancers and independent contractors qualify. The programs helped Americans get up to 39 weeks of payments, if they paired these federal programs with what their state was already providing (on average, 26 weeks of checks). That $ 600, however, expired in July. Meanwhile, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (PUA) is nearing its expiration date on December 31.
That would prevent up to 12 million Americans from losing their unemployment benefits at a time of highest unemployment since late 2013, according to left-wing research firm The Century Foundation.
The number of Americans claiming unemployment benefits for the first time has increased in recent weeks, with now nearly 21 million Americans claiming some type of benefits as of the week ending November 28. , according to the Ministry of Labor.
Other key stimulus provisions
While details on other provisions are subject to change, the bill also includes:
- $ 284 billion for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans
- $ 82 billion for funding schools and education
- $ 69 billion for vaccine testing, tracing and distribution
- $ 45 billion for transport agencies
- $ 26 billion in nutritional assistance
- $ 25 billion for rent assistance
- $ 15 billion in funds for independent theater operators, small performance venues and cultural institutions
- $ 10 billion for child care
- $ 7 billion to improve broadband access for low-income households
At the end of the line
The full text has not been released and lawmakers are still drafting the official bill. Congress is currently considering attaching the bill to a second $ 1.4 trillion spending measure that would keep the federal government funded until the end of the fiscal year.
Lawmakers are scrambling to finish ahead of a 10-day hiatus scheduled from December 21. But the deal should mean millions of Americans facing financial difficulties that the hardest part is over. After clearing both houses, the bill would then proceed to President Donald Trump’s office for signature.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed concern that the $ 600 check will not be enough to help Americans get through the period of intense financial distress, especially amid growing concerns that the increase in number of coronavirus cases and a new wave of trade restrictions could turn the system’s financial situation upside down again.
“At this point it’s not even stimulus checks,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said in an interview on MSNBC on Saturday. “These are survival checks.”
Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican representing Missouri, called for Americans to send another stimulus payment of $ 1,200 in a separate relief bill that was ultimately rejected by lawmakers. All of this sets the stage for President-elect Joe Biden to push through on another stimulus bill, though his administration may face similar partisan hurdles. He could also possibly take executive action similar to what Trump did in October to bridge the gap and break the deadlock.
How quickly this help seeps into your wallet will depend on how quickly the bill passes, although lawmakers have promised to pass it as quickly as possible. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the IRS could potentially send the first set of checks by direct deposit within a week of signing an invoice. Mailed checks, however, can take even longer. And since most state unemployment bureaus have already fixed errors or issues in implementing federally backed unemployment programs, most of the growing pains could be over, meaning the unemployed Americans might not experience such long delays as the first time.
The roughly $ 900 billion bill is already the second largest relief program in U.S. history and overshadows the $ 787 billion bill passed in 2009 that helped the U.S. economy overcome the financial crisis.
But Americans shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if they need it. Work with lenders or financial companies that you regularly bill to see if you can work out a forbearance plan. During this time, reduce your spending as much as possible so that you can increase your emergency fund.