CORONAVIRUS

Second stimulus check: 8 and 14 September key relief-bill dates

The Senate returns from its recess on Tuesday as Congress bids to push through a coronavirus relief package potentially featuring a second stimulus check.

Second stimulus check: 8 and 14 September key relief-bill dates
MANDEL NGAN / AFP

The United States Senate returns from recess on Tuesday, as millions of Americans wait to find out whether they'll be receiving a second stimulus check as part of a coronavirus relief bill that Congress has so far been unable to push through.

Having postponed its summer recess as Republicans and Democrats tried to agree a package of stimulus measures, Congress went on a break in early August after talks between between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on one side, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows on the other, failed to yield an accord.

House back in session on 14 September

The House of Representatives, which briefly broke its recess to pass legislation protecting the US Postal Service ahead of the 2020 presidential election, is scheduled to reconvene on Monday 14 September.

With lawmakers then due to leave Washington in October to prepare for the election, which takes place on 3 November, Congress therefore only has a short window in which to push through relief legislation, during a busy period in which a government funding bill must also be agreed.

Republicans and Democrats inching closer to meeting in middle?

While Republicans have sought to keep the overall spend of a coronavirus relief bill around the $1-trillion mark, Democrats have advocated a much larger outlay - but, according to Forbes' Rob Berger, there is cause for optimism that the two sides could find common ground.

In the wake of a phone call with Meadows in late August, Pelosi has said she is ready to take $1.2tn off the $3.4tn spend put forward by Democrats’ HEROES Act, Berger notes. Meanwhile, Meadows says $300bn could be added to the $1bn valuation of the Republicans’ proposed HEALS Act. "The president right now is willing to sign something at $1.3tn," he has revealed.

Pelosi, McConnell not optimistic...

That said, Pelosi did not sound confident of making further inroads when she told reporters: "We have said again and again that we are willing to come down, meet them in the middle. That would be $2.2tn. When they’re ready to do that, we’ll be ready to discuss and negotiate. I did not get that impression on that call."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) likewise has not made encouraging noises over the potential for Republicans and Democrats to come together on stimulus spending by the end of September, declaring per Newsweek that he cannot say "for sure whether we'll get another rescue package or not".

Republican senators to introduce for 'skinny' bill

Against this backdrop, Republican senators are preparing to table a 'skinny' bill worth just $500bn when the upper chamber returns, McConnell has said. It is unlikely to pass Congress as it needs the support of the Democrats, who have "flatly rejected" it; indeed, Schumer has dismissed it as "emaciated". However, the Washington Post explains that the GOP bill aims to put pressure on Democrat negotiators by targeting funding in key urgent areas such as enhanced unemployment benefits.

"Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer said a targeted deal on jobless benefits and the Paycheck Protection Program would be ‘piecemeal,’ but then Speaker Pelosi came rushing back to pass the most piecemeal bill imaginable: Postal Service legislation that completely ignored the health, economic, and education crises facing families," McConnell said on Tuesday.

He added: "Everything Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer have done suggests one simple motivation: They do not want American families to see any more bipartisan aid before the polls close on President Trump’s re-election. They have taken Americans’ health, jobs, and schools hostage for perceived partisan gain."

No guarantee of second stimulus check

Significantly, a pared-down bill would not include second stimulus check - and it’s worth noting that there now appears to be no guarantee that a direct payment will be a part of a larger package, either. This is despite both Democrats and Republicans favoring another round of direct payments - both the HEROES and HEALS Acts call for checks of up to $1,200 for those who earn under $99,000 a year - and President Donald Trump stating his support for the measure.

For example, the potential $1.3tn package referred to by Meadows is not thought to include a second stimulus check.

When could stimulus check arrive if it is included?

If a second stimulus check does feature in a coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress, the experience of the first round of payments sent out as part of the CARES Act - a $2.2tn package signed into law at the end of March - suggests that Americans would begin to receive their money around two to three weeks later.

The CARES Act checks began to be paid out on 15 April, 19 days after the bill was signed by Trump in 27 March. Therefore, were a relief package to be passed at the end of September, checks could reasonably be expected to start going out by mid-October. You’ll find a useful, more in-depth stimulus check timeline here.

Follow live US coverage of the coronavirus crisis

You can stay up to date with the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis with our US-focused live blog.