Coronavirus

Stimulus check: What is known so far about the second payment of $1,200?

The Democrats are explicitly backing a second stimulus check, President Donald Trump seems keen, but the Republicans in the Senate want more economic data.

Stimulus check: What is known so far about the second payment of $1,200?
Kevin Lamarque REUTERS

The first round of $1,200-per-individual stimulus checks were pushed through Congress pretty rapidly as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the United States in March. Approved on the 27th of that month, the IRS has now made well over 150 million payments to help Americans suffering with the economic consequences of Covid-19. Although there are still some 30 million payments to be made, by paper check and prepaid debit card, for many Americans the main focus now is whether there will be a second stimulus check, and if there is, when that might be approved, and finally paid.

Concrete second stimulus check proposals

The Democrats are fully behind a second round of stimulus checks, and included the measure in their HEROES Act, which calls for over $3 trillion of coronavirus aid to state governments, business and individuals. The HEROES Act has been passed by the Democrat-dominated House of Representatives.

In addition to the HEROES Act, the Democrats have other proposals to help struggling Americans, including Kamala Harris' proposed bill to give a universal basic income to eligible individuals during the pandemic. That bill would give individuals earning up to $120,000 a monthly payment of $2,000 plus $2,000 per dependent child up to three children.

Republicans reticent over second stimulus checks

The stumbling block comes in the shape of the Republican dominated Senate, where the GOP has made it clear it is not interested in either the HEROES Act, or any of the other generous Dem proposals, including Harris' monthly payments.

The Republicans are keen to wait to see how the economy improves as the country reopens after lockdown, with the hope that falling unemployment numbers make a second stimulus check unnecessary.

As of writing, the Republicans have no single proposal for a further coronavirus aid package, although they have raised a number of options, including such things as tax rebates for employees and credits for employers creating new jobs. In general the Republicans are far keener on helping business rather than individuals, in the belief that business will create opportunity with the subsidies they receive.

Current positions on a further round of stimulus checks.

US President Donald Trump has said on a number of occasions that he is keen on a second round of stimulus payments, well aware of the impact a direct payment has on voter sentiment and with one eye very much on his reelection bid in November. However, Trump, too, is keen to wait rather than rushing into a new aid package: "We’ll be asking for additional stimulus money," Trump said last week. “Because once we get this going, it’ll be far bigger and far better than we’ve ever seen in this country, that includes as of three of four months ago, when everyone thought it was great and it was great".

White House working on stimulus check proposal

Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday that a further round of stimulus checks is something the White House is "very seriously considering", but admitted that no decision had been made yet between him and Trump as to whether to push to include them in the next Covid-19 relief package.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House is already hard at work on its own proposal for a stimulus package.

The interplay between the White House and Senate Republicans is key here. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has said he will be in full agreement with the White House, but he has also made it clear he wants a focused second relief package, likely with preference for help for businesses not individuals and with the total cost not to come in at more than $1 trillion. Whether that allows wiggle room for another round of stimulus checks is debatable. The first round cost $268 billion, which might not leave enough for all the other parts of the economy the Republicans want to help.

Likely, the more worried Trump is about his poll numbers, the more likely he will push Senate Republicans to move for a second round of stimulus checks.