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US elections 2020: what has Trump proposed regarding a second stimulus check?

Last Friday, President Donald Trump suggested an idea that could unlock a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks immediately.

US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump leave after presenting the Medal of Honor to US Army Sergeant Major Thomas Payne, for conspicuous gallantry while serving in Iraq, in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on September 11, 2020. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS AFP

With less than three weeks until the federal budget deadline, Republican and Democrat lawmakers have yet to make a significant breakthrough on a second coronavirus relief package, which still could include a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks.

If or when a deal is finally reached, it could have some bearing on the results of November’s presidential elections between incumbent Donald Trump and former vice-president Joe Biden.

Stimulus checks: both parties in favor of second payment

Both parties have expressed that they are in favour of a second round of stimulus checks, as well as an extension of the federal unemployment bonus that was passed under the previous coronavirus stimulus package, known as the CARES Act, in March. (Although the latter will more likely be reduced from $600 to $400 a week in any new bill). 

The main issue stifling progress on a new bill is regarding the amount of money the parties want to spend, with Republicans originally looking to spend around $1 billion, while Democrats proposed a budget of $3 billion.

On Thursday, the Republican’s latest "targeted" bill, which included $500 billion of new aid but did not include provisions for a second round of stimulus checks, failed to pass a vote at the Senate. Democrats have been willing to come down on their initial $3 billion figure in recent weeks, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains steadfast that her party will not open talks on any bill that is valued at less than $2.5 billion.

Republicans have so far been unwilling to come anywhere near that amount in any bills they have put forward, which has caused the ongoing impasse. 

US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi leads members of the House of Representatives in a moment of silence at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, on September 11, 2020.

Second stimulus check: Where does Trump stand?

Six days before the new Republican’s skinny bill was rejected and with no breakthrough insight, President Trump did suggest a way to send out a second round of stimulus payments that would not need to be done under a second coronavirus relief bill.

Trump’s proposal involves unlocking $300 billion in remaining coronavirus relief funds to pay for the second round of stimulus checks.

“Now, we have $300 billion in a — an account that we didn’t use — $300 billion,” Trump said at the White House on Friday, 4 August. “And we are willing to use that. I would be willing to release it, subject to Congress, and use that as stimulus money, and it would go right to the American people. So we have $300 billion sitting in an account that we didn’t need because things are going so well with the economy.”

Stimulus checks: where did Trump get the $300bn figure?

Trump is understood to have been referring to the $300 billion funding allocated for small business loans under the CARES Act, of which $259 billion remains uncommitted.

“Again, we have $300 billion ready to go,” Trump said. “All Congress has to do is say, ‘Use it.’ If they say, ‘Use it’ — I’d like to use it without their permission, but I guess I’m not allowed to do that. I did ask that question. So Congress has to just say, ‘Use it.’ All they have to do is say, ‘Use it’; $300 billion gets immediately put into our system, and will really help the American people. There’s nothing else to do — just a very quick statement.”

The $259 billion would be more than enough to pay the some 160 million Americans who qualified for the first round of $1,200 stimulus checks that was passed under the CARES Act in March, which also included $500 for each qualifying child under the age of 17 (for up to three children).

With both parties in favor of a second round of stimulus checks but with neither close to a deal on the coronavirus relief package, perhaps Trump's suggestion could gain some traction in the coming weeks to 31 September. Though, Democrats may be reluctant to give him a perceived "win" ahead of November's elections.