Coronavirus

Second stimulus check: How it affects the approval of the Heroes Act?

WIth more than 80% of those eligible for the initial stimulus payment having received it, attention is turning to a second round, as contained in the Heroes Act.

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Second stimulus check: How it affects the approval of the Heroes Act?
Sven Hoppe/dpa - Archivo EUROPA PRESS

With the House of Representatives giving the green light for a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package on Friday (the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act), attention is now focused on the second stimulus check the package provides for.

The 150 million Americans who were eligible for the first stimulus check would be eligible for the second (plus some undocumented immigrants) but while the bill made it, as expected through the Democrat dominated House of Representatives, getting through the Senate in anything like its current shape or form is a very different matter.

A further round of stimulus payments is, though being seen in many quarters as vital to Americans struggling with the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. This will likely put some pressure on Republicans to consider what parts of the Heroes Act they could live with in order to provide much needed help to the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus.

A second round of stimulus checks

Among other provisions, including vast sums for local and state governments, the new aid package would provide for the $1,200 stimulus checks per person  structured in a similar way to the CARES Act which was approved by president Donald Trump in March and provided for the first round of stimulus checks.

There are important differences between the Acts, however. First of all a maximum of three dependents, regardless of age, would also qualify to receive $1,200 for the family, meaning a family could qualify for up to $6,000.

The second major difference is that immigrants with taxpayer identification numbers (TINs) qualify to receive a payment, which the CARES Act excluded this group of people.

Heroes Act set to struggle in the Senate

Subsequent to approval by the House of Representatives the bill is now headed to the Senate, where it is highly unlikely to be approved in its current form, because the Republicans, who control the chamber, are unhappy with the level of spending the bill calls for, arguing that as the economy opens up again there will be no need for such an aid package.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) went so far as to call it an "unserious product from an unserious House majority", claiming that it "reads like the speaker of the House pasted together random ideas from her most liberal members and slapped the word “coronavirus” on top of it."

President Donald Trump for his part said that the bill is "DOA. Dead On Arrival."

Impact of Stimulus Checks on Heroes Act

While Republicans are clearly unhappy with the Heroes Act as it is currently drafted, what's not clear is how strong their opposition is to a second round of direct stimulus payments to Americans to alleviate extreme economic hardship. The whole Heroes Act proposal is worth $3 trillion, with a long list of other matters to be funded, meaning there could be a possibility of either cutting back on other items, or even carving out direct payments and bringing that forward as a separate proposal.

Both sides of the political divide are acutely aware that there is real suffering in the country right now, and electorally, direct payments are mostly seen to play well with voters, certainly compared to big ball-outs for major corporates.

Donald Trump was certainly all too aware of the impact receiving direct money has on voters - delaying the printing of the checks to ensure his signature went on them, despite no legal requirement to do so.

In general, whether the Heroes Act gets through the Senate or not likely does not depend overly on the stimulus check provisions in it. If it fails to get through though it remains to be seen if another piece of legislation would be brought to provide for a second round of stimulus payments. Either way, Republicans have said they don't want to consider any further aid legislation until June, and certainly not till after the Memorial Day break.