Stimulus checks, a provision that once seemed unlikely to be included in this relief package, is back on the table as Democratic and Republican leaders try to finalize a deal in the next few days.
This time, though, the direct payments will likely be less than the $1,200 under the CARES Act.
“At a particular urging of President Trump and Secretary Mnuchin, who continue to be the champions of cash relief for American families, we're discussing more direct impact payments for individuals plus the bonus for families with children,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said from the Senate floor on Thursday.
In addition to stimulus checks, McConnell listed another round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), an extension of two expiring unemployment programs, an additional $300 a week in jobless benefits, education funding, and tracing and vaccine distribution as “some of the major pillars” of the deal.
Without a new deal, up to 12 million Americans would lose unemployment benefits coverage when two programs enacted under the CARES Act expire on Dec. 26. The federal eviction moratorium, paid sick leave, aid to state and local governments, among other relief, also will lapse at the end of the year.
The direct payments are expected to be around $600 to $700, plus potentially the same amount per dependent, according to Sen. John Thune (R-SD).
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who along with Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced a standalone $1,200 stimulus check proposal, said the $600 checks are a “good start.” He previously had said he may hold up a stimulus package if it didn’t contain the provision.
The most recent price tag comes after a series of meetings among McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and joined by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin by phone.
‘The legislation falls under its own weight’
All leaders expressed optimism about reaching a deal, with McConnell saying he’s “heartened by our discussion and our progress” on Thursday and Schumer saying that they’re “very close” on Wednesday.
But the clock on reaching a deal is ticking.
If lawmakers don’t pass legislation through both chambers of Congress by the end of Friday, they would need to pass stopgap funding to keep the government open.
Additionally, disagreements remain as lawmakers continue to exchange texts and proposals, which may complicate the bill passage, according to Mark Harkins, a former congressional staffer and senior fellow at Georgetown’s Government Affairs Institute.
“As you continue to add pieces to any major legislation, you continue to lose votes,” he told Yahoo Money. “Hopefully, they don’t add so many that the legislation falls under its own weight.”