CORONAVIRUS

Second stimulus check: could a $2,000 covid-19 payment happen?

President Donald Trump has urged Congress to up the $600 stimulus check included in a $900bn coronavirus relief bill to $2,000.

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Second stimulus check: could a $2,000 covid-19 payment happen?
SAUL LOEB AFP

Donald Trump continues to refuse to sign a coronavirus relief and federal funding bill passed by the US Congress this week, amid calls from the president to increase the size of the stimulus check included in the legislation.

Trump says $600 second stimulus check "ridiculously low"

On Monday, the House of Representatives and the Senate both approved the $2.3tn package, whose $900bn of covid-19 aid includes a round of stimulus checks of up to $600 for qualifying Americans. This figure represents a 50% reduction on the $1,200 direct payments sent out as part of the CARES Act, a $2.2tn relief bill passed in March.

Speaking on Tuesday, President Trump branded the $600 amount "ridiculously low" and urged lawmakers to increase the figure to $2,000. He also labelled the overall bill a "disgrace", warning: "Send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a covid relief package."

In a tweet posted on Christmas Day, Trump added: "Why would politicians not want to give people $2000, rather than only $600? It wasn’t their fault, it was China. Give our people the money!"

Democrats favor $2,000 stimulus check proposal, Pelosi to hold House vote on Monday

Congressional Democrats have welcomed the president’s call for a higher stimulus-check amount, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) tweeting: “Let’s do it!” However, Republicans on Thursday blocked House Democrats’ attempts to approve the increase by unanimous consent, prompting Pelosi to say she would be holding a full recorded vote on the amendment on Monday.

"Today, on Christmas Eve morning, House Republicans cruelly deprived the American people of the $2,000 that the President agreed to support," Pelosi said in a statement. "If the President is serious about the $2,000 direct payments, he must call on House Republicans to end their obstruction.

"House and Senate Democrats have repeatedly fought for bigger checks for the American people, which House and Senate Republicans have repeatedly rejected – first, during our negotiations when they said that they would not go above $600 and now, with this act of callousness on the Floor.

"On Monday, I will bring the House back to session where we will hold a recorded vote on our stand-alone bill to increase economic impact payments to $2,000. To vote against this bill is to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny them the relief they need."

Republican-controlled Senate unlikely to support $2,000 stimulus check

Even if the Democrat-held House votes in favor of the $2,000 stimulus check on Monday, though, it seems unlikely such a measure would get through the Republican-held Senate. Since Congress passed the CARES Act earlier this year, the upper chamber has battled to minimise the cost of coronavirus relief and would likely balk at the price tag of such a proposal.

Indeed, CBS has quoted Heights Securities as saying that a round of $2,000 stimulus checks would add $385bn to the cost of the $900bn relief bill passed by Congress.

However, the result of a Senate run-off election in Georgia could leave Democrats better-placed to spend big on economic aid after the 117th Congress is sworn in in the New Year. Having maintained their majority in the House in November’s congressional elections, Democrats will take control of the Senate if candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock beat Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, respectively, on 5 January.

President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on 20 January, has said he wants to give Americans further direct stimulus on top of the $600 figure, describing the relief in the $900bn bill as no more than a "down payment".

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