Second stimulus checks: Why your next $1,200 payment isn’t in the mail

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released the GOP coronavirus aid plan this week which included a second round of stimulus checks.  While many Americans will welcome news of another direct payment, it could be a while before you see the cash.

McConnell’s $1 trillion HEALS Act proposal was in stark contrast to a $3 trillion package previously approved by House Democrats.  As you might imagine, there have been extensive negotiations to get both sides of the aisle agree on the next round of relief. As of Friday morning, lawmakers seemed no closer to settling on a single plan despite sweeping agreement among Washington’s top power players that Congress must pass further relief in coming days and weeks.

“I’m not very optimistic that we will have any kind of an agreement on a comprehensive bill in the near future,” said White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Thursday. He said he even doubted a deal could be struck next week.

Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin again met with Democratic leadership Thursday night, and Republicans are pointing the finger across the aisle.

“Democrats are holding up urgent help for struggling people over completely unrelated liberal wish-list items, like massive tax cuts for rich people in blue states,” McConnell tweeted Thursday evening as Senators left Washington for the weekend. “Economists across the spectrum say it’s a terrible idea. This is how serious they are about these negotiations.”

McConnell may have seen this coming. He warned the timeline for passing an aid package might be weeks and not days during an appearance last week in Ashland, Kentucky.

“Hopefully we can come together behind some package we can agree on in the next few weeks,” McConnell said, according to The Washington Post.

Not only has the process kept many unemployed Americans exposed with COVID-related insurance expiring this week but that means it would take that much longer for $1,200 direct payments to be distributed.

CNET estimated that if the GOP plan were to make it through Congress in the next few days, it’s possible checks would be distributed in mid to late August. 

However, McConnell’s timeline indicating “weeks” could potentially push the payments event later. The Senate is set for a recess after Friday, August 7 that would run through Labor Day.

How far off are Republican and Democrats on a deal? Quite a bit, it seems. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi isn’t happy with a GOP proposal to slash the current $600/weekly jobless benefit to $200 a week.

“This is wrong. We have to do what’s right for the American people,” The House Speaker said Monday.

Republicans argue the federal unemployment aid bump is too generous on top of state benefits and is discouraging employees from returning to work. On Thursday, the White House and some of its Republican allies in the Senate signaled they wanted to extend, at least temporarily, the expanded jobless benefit. The move was too little, too late to prevent the lapse of the benefit officially on Friday. Democrats have so far rejected a “one-off” extension and say the next relief bill needs to move as a complete package.

The sides are also at odds over a liability shield for schools and businesses that’s been deemed critical by McConnell. The Washington Post reports The White House may be willing to compromise with Democrats and dump the shield from the plan. That wouldn’t sit well with McConnell who said he wouldn’t bring the aid package for a vote without the liability shield included.

“We’re not negotiating over liability protection,” McConnell told CNBC on Tuesday earlier this week. “We’re not negotiating with Democrats over that.”

According to The Washington Post, negotiations on the package are expected to continue through the weekend.

More money for dependents

The GOP plan calls for checks up to $1,200 for most taxpayers plus an additional $500 for any dependent. The word “any” is the change that could result in additional dollars.

According to Yahoo Finance, parents of older high schoolers and college students claimed as dependents would get the bonus. This also includes anyone taking care of elderly relatives who are also claimed as dependents.

In the first round of stimulus payments, only parents of dependents under 17 received the additional $500.

“We also include, in the additional $500 for each dependent, some people that we didn’t intend to leave out last time, but we did,” Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Monday. “So regardless of age, some of these dependents will now be helped.”

A Democratic plan approved in the House back in May proposed a similar structure for dependents but with the amount being $1,200 instead of $500.

President Trump wants larger checks?

During a visit to West Texas Wednesday, President Trump hinted that a second round of stimulus checks could exceed the $1,200 payment amount issued in the first COVID-19 stimulus package.

When asked if $1,200 was enough, Trump said, “We’re going to see it may go higher than that, actually.”

“I’d like to see it be very high because I love the people, I want the people to get it, you know, the economy is going to come back,” Trump continued. “We saved millions of lives but now we’re bringing (the economy) back … we gotta take care of the people in the meantime.”

How much money will I get?

Outside of the dependent payment, here’s how the payment up to $1,200 breaks down, according to CNBC:

  • Individuals earning a gross adjusted income of up to $75,000 per year in 2019 will receive a $1,200 payment.
  • Couples earning a gross adjusted income of up to $150,000 per year in 2019 will receive a $2,400 payment.
  • The checks will be reduced by $5 for every $100 in income, phasing out completely at $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for couples.
  • Individuals with no income and individuals who rely on benefits such as Social Security are eligible for the full $1,200 payment

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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