CORONAVIRUS

Trump signs $900bn relief bill: what happens now with stimulus check?

US President Donald Trump has finally signed a $900bn coronavirus aid package, paving the way for Americans to receive a second stimulus check.

Trump signs relief bill: what happens now with stimulus check?
Samuel Corum AFP

Almost a week after it was passed by Congress, President Donald Trump on Sunday finally signed the new, $900bn coronavirus relief bill, which includes a second round of stimulus checks for qualifying Americans.

How much will the second stimulus check be?

As things stand, the package provides for a check of up to $600, with households also able to claim an additional $600 for child dependents aged 16 or under.

Those who earned under $75,000 in the 2019 tax year will get the full stimulus check, while a steadily smaller figure will be given to people on a higher annual income, up to a maximum phase-out limit of $87,000.

However, a major reason why Trump stalled on signing the new bill is his objection to the $600 maximum amount, which is half the total of up to $1,200 paid out as part of the first round of checks included in March’s CARES Act.

House to vote on upping stimulus check to $2,000 on Monday

Describing the $600 figure as "ridiculously low" and "measly", Trump has called on Congress to up the second stimulus check to $2,000 - a proposal which Democrats on Capitol Hill have reacted to with enthusiasm.

In a statement issued after he signed the relief bill, Trump said: "As President, I have told Congress that I want far less wasteful spending and more money going to the American people in the form of $2,000 checks per adult and $600 per child."

Republicans blocked an attempt by House Democrats to approve the increase by unanimous consent on Thursday, but the lower chamber’s speaker, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said she will hold a full recorded vote on the amendment on Monday.

"Every Republican vote against this bill is a vote to deny the financial hardship that families face and to deny the American people the relief they need," Pelosi said in a statement on Sunday.

Senate likely to reject increased stimulus check amount

However, the measure is not expected to get through the Senate, whose Republican majority has consistently battled to keep stimulus spending down since Congress passed the $2.2tn CARES Act.

And CBS quotes Heights Securities as saying that the cost of the new relief bill would increase by $385bn were $2,000 checks to replace the $600 payments.

The proposal is therefore likely to be "dead on arrival" in the Senate even if it is approved by the House, Thomas Gift of University College London's School of Public Policy told CNN on Monday.

Senate Republicans "have been saying from the very outset that they’re not willing to go over that $1tn mark [on the overall spend of an aid package] and they’re not willing to entertain any proposals that would see direct checks to Americans over this $600 figure", Gift said.

Reacting to Trump’s signing of the relief bill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) praised his "decision to get billions of dollars of crucial covid-19 relief out the door and into the hands of American families", but made no mention of the president’s call for bigger stimulus checks.

When will the second stimulus check come?

Whatever the amount ends up being, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can be expected to get the second round of stimulus checks out quickly, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said.

Speaking to CNBC’s Jim Cramer last Monday, Mnuchin said checks will start going out by direct deposit within "one week" of the scheme being given the go-ahead. "The good news is, this is a very, very fast way of getting money into the economy and […] let me emphasize that people are going to see this money at the beginning of next week," he said.

IRS has until 15 January to send out direct payments

That said, it should be pointed out that the terms of the relief bill give the IRS a deadline of 15 January by which to distribute direct payments. Any Americans whose check is not sent out by then will have to wait until next year to claim their check in their tax return for 2020, says CNET.

Given its speed, this is less likely to affect people getting their check by direct deposit. Last time around, however, the process proved slower for those whose bank details were not on file at the IRS and whose payments were sent out by mail as a paper check or a pre-paid debit card.

The overwhelming majority of recipients will get their money by direct deposit, though: the method accounted for some 120 million of the approximately 160 million CARES Act checks sent out, the Treasury Department said earlier this year.

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