Stimulus update: $600 checks are gaining support

December 11, 2020, 7:20 PM UTC

On Tuesday, the White House unveiled a $916 billion stimulus plan that would send most Americans a $600 stimulus check.

That proposal was quickly shot down by Democratic leadership, given that it didn’t include money for enhanced unemployment insurance for the more than 19 million Americans still receiving jobless benefits.

“He’s going to step in and give a stimulus check—but then he’s going to go off and cut unemployment. That would be a disaster for workers,” Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden told Yahoo Finance.

Nevertheless, the White House’s addition of $600 stimulus checks marks a turn in the debates, as it revives the notion that checks could conceivably be included in the next aid package. Previously that prospect had dimmed considerably: Last week a group of bipartisan senators put forward a $908 billion package—which didn’t include stimulus checks—a plan that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said could be a framework for a final deal. That was the first time Democratic leadership had publicly suggested they’d be open to passing a package that didn’t include direct payments.

Democratic leadership reaffirmed this week they’d still prefer the next package to include direct payment. But whether or not it ultimately ends up in the final package, Pelosi said this week, would be “up to the President.” Last week, President-elect Biden told reporters that stimulus checks “may still be in play.”

And while some rank-and-file legislators on both sides are pushing for the checks to be added in the next package, there are no guarantees it’ll make the final bill. Keep in mind that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to support a proposal that included a second round of checks.

But if Congress ultimately included stimulus checks in the economic aid package they pass, aid could come quickly if the last go-around is any indication. After the passage of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act on March 27, Americans started to receive their stimulus checks as early as the week of April 13.

The long waits shouldn’t happen this time. Back in the spring, millions of Americans, including those on Social Security, saw their checks delayed until they provided additional information. Since this payment would be based on the same tax year, it’s unlikely more information will need to be verified—at least among those who received their first round of payments.

And the Trump White House could even ask the Treasury Secretary to speed up the distribution of the checks given that the system is already in place. That is exactly what the Trump White House discussed prior to losing the election.

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