UNITED STATES

Third stimulus check: when could $1,400 covid-19 payment happen?

US President Joe Biden has included a third stimulus check in his proposal for a $1.9tn coronavirus economic relief package.

Third stimulus check: when could $1,400 covid-19 payment happen?
Al Drago / Pool via CNP / Splash GTRES

US President Joe Biden has included a third stimulus check, this time for up to $1,400, in his coronavirus relief proposal - but this fresh round of direct payments may not get the go-ahead for another couple of months.

Biden vows to "finish the job" of getting Americans $2,000 stimulus payment

Announced by Biden as part of his $1.9tn American Rescue Plan (ARP) earlier this month, the $1,400 maximum payment represents the difference between the $600 second stimulus check included in December’s $900bn covid-19 aid package and the $2,000 figure Democrats unsuccessfully sought to raise this to.

"We will finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in cash relief to people who need it the most," Biden said. "The $600 already appropriated is simply not enough if you have to choose between paying rent and putting food on the table. Even for those who have kept their jobs, these checks are really important.”

Period of bipartisan negotiation of ARP now needed

Although the $1,400 third stimulus check is expected to remain in the ARP whatever form the package finally takes, Goldman Sachs analyst Alec Phillips says efforts to get bipartisan backing for the bill in Congress will require a period of negotiation, amid Republican pushback over the mooted $1.9tn overall outlay.

For example, Republican Senator Rick Scott has complained: "We cannot simply throw massive spending at this [crisis] with no accountability to the current and future American taxpayer."

Speaking on the 'Exchanges at Goldman Sachs' podcast on Wednesday, Phillips said a bipartisan package may end up being negotiated down to just over half its original spend. "Bipartisan support obviously has a political appeal and one would imagine that President Biden will, if he can, figure out how he can get Republican support for it, but I think the odds of getting $1.9tn in a covid relief package are probably pretty low," he explained.

"Our expectation is maybe $1.1tn, something like that."

Democrats could opt to go it alone - but bipartisan stimulus package may in fact be quicker

That said, Janet Yellen, Biden’s pick for Treasury secretary, has urged US lawmakers to "act big" on the next coronavirus relief package and, given that the Democrats now have control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, they could also look to go it alone on larger relief legislation.

Their wafer-thin advantage in the Senate - the chamber is a 50-50 split, with Democratic Vice-President Kamala Harris given a tie-breaking vote - does not give them the filibuster-proof 60 votes they normally need to ensure legislation advances beyond the debate stage in the upper house, but in this case they can get round that by using a process called 'budget reconciliation', which only requires a simple majority of 51 for a bill to get through.

However, Phillips feels following such a strategy could end up actually being a more drawn-out process than negotiating a smaller bill supported by enough senators from both sides of the floor. "There’s a lot of procedural stuff that goes into [budget reconciliation] that could make it take longer […]," he said.

"If they go the bipartisan route and it looks like maybe they can get 60 votes in the Senate for that, then that’s maybe a little bit quicker," he added, noting that there is no guarantee of unanimous support for a larger package from all 50 Democratic senators.

"I think we get something done by March"

Other factors, such as former US President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, can also be expected to have a bearing on how long it takes for the next covid-19 stimulus bill to make it through Congress.

Phillips concluded: "Probably under any scenario I think we get something done by March."

Stimulus check would likely arrive around a week after being approved

Once a relief bill featuring a third stimulus check is passed by legislators and signed into law by the president, the IRS can now be expected to get the majority of eligible Americans their payment in a matter of days.

Although the body took just over two weeks to begin sending out the first round of stimulus checks after their approval in March, most direct-deposit recipients had received December's second check within about a week.

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