Stimulus package update: $600 or $700 relief checks

A second stimulus check will reportedly be part of 2020’s final stimulus bill after all. Here’s what we know so far.

second stimulus check is officially back on the menu. After weeks of advancing a COVID-19 relief package without funding for an extra check, negotiators in Washington are shaping a new $900 billion coronavirus stimulus bill that is said to include a second stimulus check. Instead of another $1,200 payment, however, the bill will set a cap of $600 or $700 per person, according to multiple reports, including Politico and The Washington Post.

The bipartisan negotiators, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will have only days to complete a government funding deal by the Friday deadline, as well as finalize the stimulus package.

A vote for the $900 billion stimulus could arrive as soon as Friday or Saturday, according to reports, with the legislation starting in the House of Representatives before moving on to the Senate and then, if it passes both chambers, to President Donald Trump’s desk for a signature.

“McConnell told Senate Republicans to be prepared to be here through the weekend to get COVID/spending bills done,” NBC News political correspondent Garrett Haake tweeted Wednesday.

“Sen. Joe Manchin estimates the Senate “probably” votes Saturday on COVID-omnibus package,” tweeted Hill writer Alex Bolton.

A coronavirus aid proposal before Jan. 1 is considered emergency legislation to institute a safety net for expiring benefits that could leave tens of million of unemployed Americans without an income and millions of households facing eviction. A sweeping deal like the $2 trillion CARES Act from March, which authorized a $1,200 stimulus check for most Americans, is more likely to return to the table in early 2021, top US leaders have implied.

President Donald Trump, too, has called for “more money than they’re talking about” in stimulus checks, and has continued to push for a second check in the final bill.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did not say whether Trump would refuse to sign a stimulus package that didn’t include a second check, but said Tuesday that Trump “would really like to see those stimulus checks in there.”

Stimulus checks aren’t cheap. The IRS said this summer that it had spent $270 billion sending out 160 million checks, and on Monday, Sen. Mitt Romney, a Republican who has been involved in crafting the bipartisan stimulus proposal, forecast a cost of $300 billion if the checks were once again included for $1,200 per person. Republicans reportedly bridled at the cost.

Last week’s White House proposal had allocated $600 each in stimulus money for every qualified adult and their child dependents, a drop from $1,200 in the CARES Act for adults, and a raise from the $500 per qualified dependent. It isn’t yet clear if the $900 billion stimulus proposal will follow this suggestion.

A smaller second stimulus check would be one way to keep costs below the $1 trillion cutoff that Republican lawmakers have in the past said they’d support. Last week, the White House offered a $918 billion plan with $600 maximum stimulus checks. That was rebuffed by Democratic leaders because the proposal also cut $300 in weekly federal unemployment insurance benefits that would help prop up jobseekers until April.

The $900 billion stimulus proposal is the latest variation of a $908 billion proposal from Dec. 1 that by Monday was split into two parts. The first is a core bill worth $748 billion, which contains the unemployment funding and other measures. The second is a $160 billion bill that carves off the two most contentious issues that could capsize an agreement: money for state, local and tribal funding on one hand; and a liability shield to protect businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits on the other.

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