CORONAVIRUS

Second stimulus check: what's been proposed other than HEALS Act?

As the coronavirus crisis continues, a number of proposals have now been tabled for a stimulus check to follow the payments sent out as part of the CARES Act.

Second stimulus check: what's been proposed other than the HEALS Act?
Drew Angerer AFP

HEALS Act checks proposed as CARES Act follow-up

Republican senators on Monday introduced their proposal for the next coronavirus relief package in the United States, the HEALS Act, which includes a second stimulus check for qualifying Americans.

Under the terms of the HEALS Act, $1,200 checks would be sent to individuals who earn less than $75,000 a year, while joint tax filers on under $150,000 would receive $2,400. Checks for a steadily smaller amount would be available to higher earners, up to a final income cap of $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for joint filers.

These eligibility requirements mirror those of the first round of stimulus checks, officially known as Economic Impact Payments, which have been sent out to millions of Americans as part of the CARES Act, a $2.2tn coronavirus relief package signed into law in March. A notable aspect on which they differ, however, is the payment of additional credits for dependents.

While the CARES Act offered households an extra $500 per dependent but limited this to those under 17, the HEALS Act proposes the same amount but seeks to include dependents of all ages. According to the Tax Foundation, a non-profit organisation that focuses on tax policy in the US, the removal of the CARES Act age limit would make as many as 26 million more people eligible for the credit.

Like the CARES Act, the HEALS Act also excludes immigrants without a Social Security number.

What other second stimulus checks have been proposed?

HEROES Act

Passed by the House of Representatives in May, the $3tn Democrat-backed HEROES Act included a second batch of Economic Impact Payments, with the parameters of the scheme also very similar to those distributed as part of the CARES Act.

Like the CARES Act and the HEALS Act, checks for $1,200 and $2,400 would be given to individuals on less than $75,000 and joint filers on $150,000, respectively, with the payments phased out up to upper income limits of $99,000 and $198,000.

Once more, the issue of extra payments for dependents is where the terms of the bill’s stimulus checks particularly stand out. Just as the recently-unveiled HEALS Act has, the HEROES Act sought to broaden eligibility for the additional credit to include dependents over the age of 16. But while it capped the credit at a maximum of three dependents per household, it raised the amount paid out from $500 to $1,200, meaning families could potentially claim a total of $6,000.

The HEROES Act additionally proposed including immigrants who do not have a Social Security number, and retroactively giving them the check they were denied under the terms of the CARES Act.

However, Republicans in the GOP-held Senate balked at the overall spend of the HEROES Act, declared the bill "dead on arrival" in the upper chamber, and have refused to take it up.

CAAF Act

Tabled on Thursday by a group of Republican senators including 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the Coronavirus Assistance for American Families (CAAF) Act is the most recent proposal for a second stimulus check, and seeks to give households with dependents more than the CARES Act and the HEALS Act.

Applying the income thresholds used in the first round of stimulus checks, the CAAF would distribute $1,000 payments “to all American citizens equally, regardless of age or dependent status”, according to a statement released by Senators Romney (R-Ut), Marco Rubio (R-Fl), Bill Cassidy (R-La) and Steve Daines (R-Mt).

“As Congress considers another round of payments, we should ensure that funds are going where they are needed most,” the senators added. “We believe the focus should be on families.”

The terms of the CAAF Act would, for example, enable a family of four featuring two dependents to claim $600 more than the CARES Act gave them: $4,000 rather than $3,400.

Foreign nationals would not be eligible for the CAAF Act, however.

Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act

In addition to one-off stimulus checks, proposals for further direct cash injections have also included calls for regular payments. One such plan is the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act, which was introduced by Senators Kamala Harris (D-Ca), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) and Ed Markey (D-Ma) in early May.

Harris, Sanders and Markey called for people in America to be handed $2,000 a month until three months after the US’ secretary of health and human services has declared the Covid-19 public health emergency at an end, with checks also being paid out retroactively right back to the start of the pandemic in March.

It was proposed that the full $2,000 would be sent out to those earning under $100,000, with payments then phasing out to an income limit of $120,000. Up to $4,000 would be given to married couples who file their taxes jointly, while $2,000 would also be given out per child dependent, up to a maximum of three children.

The proposal would cover all US residents, including those who don’t have a Social Security number.

However, the astronomical spend that regular checks would entail - the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimated that the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act would cost at least $5.7tn to implement, far more than the approximately $270bn invested in the CARES Act checks - has made it a "futile proposal", Forbes notes.

Nevertheless, as Congress returned from its July recess to begin talks on the next relief package, Kamala reiterated her call for monthly checks, telling MSNBC: “Through the course of this pandemic and crisis, we need to give people $2,000 a month as recurrent payments - people below a certain income level - to help them and sustain them through these months of crisis so at the end of it, they can get back up on their feet instead of falling deep, deep, deep into the crevices of this crisis.”

Emergency Money for the People Act

Introduced by Representatives Ro Khanna (Ca-17) and Tim Ryan (Oh-13) in mid-April, the Emergency Money for the People Act called for a system of regular payments very similar to the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act, but with higher income thresholds.

$2,000 a month would be distributed to eligible Americans aged 16 and above who earn less than $130,000 a year, with $4,000 going to married couples on under $260,000. The amount paid would go down by 5% for every $1,000 over these income caps.

Although the Emergency Money for the People Act proposed a more inclusive earnings limit, the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act was more generous to dependents. Rather than sending out $2,000 each, Khanna and Ryan’s proposal suggested a lower sum of $500 per dependent, again up to a maximum of three.

That said, the Emergency Money for the People Act sought to include the dependents left out of the CARES Act because of its under-17s age cap. "The individual will receive the payment and their parent or guardian will receive the dependent credit," Khanna said in a statement.

He added: "A one-time, twelve-hundred-dollar check isn’t going to cut it. Americans need sustained cash infusions for the duration of this crisis in order to come out on the other side alive, healthy, and ready to get back to work."

Like the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act, the bill includes immigrants without a Social Security number.

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