CORONAVIRUS

Stimulus check: the debate on who will qualify for second payment?

The debate continues over a second stimulus package and Mitch McConnell appreciates the urgency of the matter with Nancy Pelosi also resolute over negotiations.

Stimulus check: the debate on who will qualify for second payment?

Americans were hit with good news and bad news regarding a second stimulus check in the coming weeks. The good news is that a second check is almost a certainty. The bad news is that the income limit could be substantially lower than what was required for eligibility for a first check.

The first check saw struggling Americans who made $75,000 or less receive a check. Mitch McConnell, the majority speaker in the Senate, says an income limit of $40,000 could be applied.

"I think the people who have been hit the hardest are people who make about $40,000 a year or less,” McConnell said. “Many of them work in the hospitality industry. The hospitality industry, as all of you know, just got rim-racked - hotels, restaurants - and so [more stimulus checks] could be part of it," McConnell said.

The second stimulus check looks like it will be the last one too with McConnell adding: "The country needs one last boost."

The recent surge in coronavirus cases, however, has put the relief package back into the spotlight. McConnell is aware of the urgency to get a deal done too.

"Once we go back into session next week, I’ll begin socializing ... internalizing, if you will, discussions that I’ve had during this week off, with my members," McConnell said during a stop in Kentucky on Tuesday.

In a different interview, McConnell told WRVK, a Kentucky radio station, that “this new coronavirus package will be front and center. That will dominate our time ... starting next week.”

When will we know about the second stimulus check?

The House of Representatives pass the HEROES Act. That was not a surprise as they created the bill and control the House. The problem is passing the act in its current form in the Senate. Republicans see the HEROES Act and the generosity it contains as some sort of socialist wishlist.

America is in trouble though and Donald Trump wants to be reelected to the White House meaning Republicans are under pressure from the Democrats and their own president to be more generous as they might like to be. And with pressure coming from all sides, it might be good news for Americans.

So the Senate returns on 20 July and McConnell says he is confident a deal can be struck. “I do think we'll get there and do something that needs to be done,” he said about the reconvening of the Senate.

Nancy Pelosi has dug her heels in recently, stating she would "absolutely" delay the recess planned for 7 August. "We absolutely have to. We also have to come to an agreement,” she said. This puts the onus on Republicans to make a deal because Pelosi and the Democrats are in this for the long haul to get what they want.

There will be a lot of back and forth in the coming weeks with The Hill reporting that there is a battle brewing over the Payment Protection Program, designed to help Americans keep their jobs and to incentivise companies to keep workers employed.

“We don’t have a full picture from the information that we’ve received so far, so it’s hard to say whether the program is working,” said Liz Hempowicz, director of public policy at the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group.

“In the PPP loan data, the administration is claiming that they know how many jobs have been retained under this program and how many jobs have been saved, but there’s no way for the government to know that,” she said, noting that the numbers just represent “how many people are employed by those entities that got these loans rather than how many jobs have been supported by this program.”

Democrats will be aware of this and Republicans are likely to continue to tout numbers that have not been confirmed but with increasing scrutiny on this Senate debate, it might lead a stronger starting position for the Democrats.

Where is the debate at and when will there be a solution?

As we know, the CARES Act was passed in March and checks were delivered shortly after. While the IRS is still sending the checks, a resolution was found quickly. The shock the world was in and the severity of the closing down of companies served as an impetus to get the deal over the line. Since then, however, as life returns to some sort of normality, the issue has become more political.

Donald Trump is running for reelection in November after beating Hillary Clinton in the race for presidency. Now, he is battling Joe Biden in 2020. Trump is aware that delivering money into pockets of Americans will bode well for his chances of another term in office. He says he is pushing hard for another stimulus check.

"We are working on another stimulus package, and that will take place... very soon," Trump said. He also said he wants bigger stimulus checks than what the Democrats have put into the HEROES Act.

Trump, however, is trying to attack several areas of need and has also mentioned tax breaks including the Explore American credit, which would see Americans receive a tax break of up to $4,000 for taking trips inside American, going to restaurants and putting money back into the economy.

A more detailed breakdown of who supports what as the debate over a second stimulus check ramps up can be read here. There is a lot of political positioning at present but it does seem like we are inching closer to an agreement.