Coronavirus: stimulus checks USA

Second Stimulus Check: when will I know what the payment date is?

For many, the first stimulus check to help Americans struggling with the Covid-19 pandemic has not been sufficient. When will people receive a second check?

Second Stimulus Check: when will I know what the payment date is?
Jonathan Ernst REUTERS

This story has moved on a fair bit - check out our latest version of events, published on Sunday 16 July: Second Stimulus Check: will there be another payment in August?

The CARES Act passed back in March, provided for stimulus checks paid to individuals to help Americans struggling with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. So far the IRS say they have paid out well over 150 million stimulus checks with a further 30 to 35 million still to go. The big question: will there be a second round of stimulus payments and, if so, when will they be paid?

Second stimulus checks: proposals

So far only one proposal for a second round of stimulus checks has actually got anywhere within the legislative process. The Democrats have passed the HEROES Act in the House of Representatives. This wide-ranging aid package (over $3 trillion in total) provides for a second stimulus check that is broadly similar to the first round of payments but has slightly more generous conditions.

The problem with the HEROES Act is that the Republicans are pretty much unanimously against it, have pronounced it "Dead on Arrival" and so far have not called for it to be debated in the Senate, which they control.

This means if there is to be a second round of stimulus payments Democrats need to go back to the drawing board to come up with a package Republicans can get behind, or Republicans need to start feeling political heat to do something for Americans hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and decide to start talking to Dems.

Republicans happy to go slow on next coronarvirus stimulus package

There's no shortage of indications that individual Americans  are struggling, but Republicans have been buoyed by May's better than expected unemployment figures and appear keen to take a go-slow approach to any new aid package.

Republican Senator John Thune made it clear there's no time in June to move ahead with coronavirus aid legislation due to the packed calendar, noting Department of Defense, great outdoors and circuit judge approvals all to be dealt with. "I don't how you can wedge that [Covid-19 aid packages] in there". Remember though that Republicans control the Senate agenda so could move things around if they actually felt it was urgent.

Tight schedule for coronavirus aid in July

Pushing matters into July means any work on the new package would not start till 17 July as the Senate has a two week recess for the 4 July break. That leaves a three week window to get a new coronavirus package done before summer recess starts on 8 August. It's doable, but it's tight.

Of course whether Republicans go ahead with a second round of stimulus checks will all depend on what happens to the economy in the meantime. By pushing the date to start work back to July 17, they will have all the June economic figures to weigh up before making their decision, plus stats from early July.

Republican senator Roy Blunt explained: "The end of July is frankly my sense of when I think we’ll have all the information we need to put the next bill together. And it might be about the time when all of the money from the [previous] bills has been spent."

A crucial element will be the June jobs report, and of course whether the opening up of the economy has seen the boost lawmakers hope for. If cases of Covid-19 continue to spike and people stay at home, although legally not obliged to, the economic numbers could force Republicans to act in the face of the pain of their constituents.

Possible payment dates if there is a second stimulus check

To try and understand when any second stimulus check payments might be made, we have to rely on the payment calendar for the first round of stimulus checks

Stimulus check calendar under CARES Act

The CARES Act was signed into law on Friday, March 27, 2020. The very first stimulus checks were paid into people's bank accounts over the weekend of the 11 and 12 of April, giving a lag time of about two weeks for the first payments.

The first people to receive the stimulus payments, directly into their bank accounts, were taxpayers who had filed a 2019 or 2020 tax return.

Tens of millions of Americans received their direct payment by April 15, that is two and a half weeks after the legislation was signed into law by President Trump.

Key player | Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury secretary.

Key player | Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury secretary.

The vast majority of filers had received their payments directly in the first two weeks after the first payments, by the end of April.

Where the IRS do not have people's bank statement and have been receiving paper checks or prepaid debit cards the process has been far slower, with many millions still to receive their first stimulus payment in the middle of June. The IRS said they expected almost all stimulus payments to be made within 20 weeks, although there are millions who may miss out.

Potential second stimulus check calendar under HEROES Act / Other legislation

Based on the above, if a second stimulus payment was to be signed into law at the end of the first week of August, and a similar payment schedule was followed as for the first checks we could see:

Initial deposits: weekend of 22/23 August

Majority of direct bank deposits made: End of first week of September

Final second round stimulus payments being made: Just before Christmas 2020

The good news: it is likely that the IRS would be able to use the information it gathered from the first round of stimulus checks to expedite the payment of any second round of payments. And likely, as it did with the first round, the IRS would seek to prioritise payments to lower income households first.

Of course what Americans waiting anxiously for a second stimulus check need is for there to be some movement from legislators to actually make it happen. There the ball is in the Republicans' court and so far they don't seem to be in any hurry.