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Here’s what you need to know about a second stimulus check for 2021.

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A second stimulus check isn’t a slam dunk for 2020, but nor is it completely out of the running. And even if any bill approved in the next 18 days doesn’t include a new direct payment, the vital signs for another check are strong for early 2021.

The firm support for another direct payment is clear on both sides of the aisle, with lawmakers, President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden all backing a general bid to send more money to the majority of Americans. Despite the bipartisan enthusiasm for another direct payment, a $908 billion bipartisan proposal cuts it out, likely as a way to keep costs low enough to overcome Republican resistance to a large bill.

Yet, an amendment to the same proposal that two senators vow to fight for this week would add in a $1,200 payment and a White House counterproposal would deliver $600 for every qualified adult and child (but it comes at a cost). 

The topsy-turvy nature of negotiations in the final days before the last federal coronavirus protections end places a giant question mark over a second — or even third? — stimulus check in 2020 or early 2021. Here’s how another direct payment could still pass this year, and how the situation could play out based on what we know today. This article updates with new information.

A $1,200 stimulus check is approved in 2020, paid out in 2021

There are several different ways a stimulus check could happen. Here’s the first. 

In what’s been called an unlikely duo, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley and Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent, have teamed up to demand that a $1,200 stimulus check be included in the proposal at the center of the most recent debate. The $908 billion plan, which was crafted by a group of Democratic and Republican senators, doesn’t include a stimulus check, which would tip the price well past $1 trillion, a cutoff point for some Republicans.

As of this summer, the IRS said it sent 160 million stimulus payments totaling $270 billion, or roughly 30% of the total bipartisan proposal. As of September, the IRS was still hunting down at least 9 million people who were still owed that first payment, bringing the total cost even higher. 

However, if the next bill drops two of the most contentious issues — Democrats’ desire to fund state and local governments and Republicans’ wish to to protect businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits — then it’s possible there could be some wiggle room to send a second stimulus check.

If approved, the direct payment would be likely to follow many if not all of the rules set out with the first check. If passed with a week or two left in the month, it’s possible that some of the first people in line would get a stimulus check before year’s end, with tens of millions of others receiving theirs in 2021.

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A bill passes with a $600 direct payment

Democrats have rejected the White House’s Dec. 8 proposal of a $918 billion bill that would include a $600 stimulus check at the expense of renewing the federal contribution to weekly unemployment insurance for out of work Americans. The simple math is that unemployment money would supply a maximum of around $4,800 for individuals with no income ($300 a week for four months, or about 16 weeks) versus a onetime payment of $600 per qualified individual per household.

However, if the contents of the bill were to shift and leave out some of the funding, could there be enough left to pay out a stopgap stimulus check in addition to the $300 weekly federal unemployment checks? And if that happens, could there be a third check in 2021? We don’t know, but it’s certainly worth thinking about.

“We need to get the essential done and we’ll have time to get stuff done that we didn’t include because we couldn’t get political agreement, we’ll have time to do that,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Sunday, seeming to hint that Democrats could put aside funding they want in order to pass a bill in the short term. “We have a new president, we have a new Congress. We’re not going to leave anybody behind.”

No stimulus check in 2020, but a second payment in 2021

If action continues to coalesce around the $908 billion plan as is, there won’t be another stimulus check in 2020, but the chances could then be greater to galvanize a $1,200 check in 2021. Though previous proposals have suggested $2,000 per qualified adult until the pandemic is over (that idea was backed by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and Sanders), $1,200 seems to be a precedent both sides will accept. 

See below for key figures who support another check.

Why a second stimulus check has a good chance of happening… sometime

The number of lawmakers who support a second check is growing. Here’s a partial list of people and groups in and around government who have come out strongly in favor of another check.

President-elect Joe Biden: “I think it would be better if they have the $1,200 and I understand that may be still in play,” Biden said Dec. 4, adding that he supports the $908 billion proposal as a necessary short-term compromise. “You’ve got to find the sweet spot where you have enough people willing to move in a direction that gets us a long way down the road.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders: The Vermont Democrat and former presidential hopeful said he won’t support the $908 billion bill without major changes to include stimulus checks. He also wants to exclude language about limiting lawsuits related to COVID-19, something that Republicans want. “In my view, we have got to make sure that every working class American receives at least $1,200 in direct payments,” Sanders said. Sanders on Thursday said he was working with Hawley on an amendment for a $1,200 check.


Another stimulus check isn’t out of the running yet.

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Sen. Josh Hawley: The Republican from Missouri appears to be a lone voice in his party, both advocating for another direct payment and also tweeting his willingness to reach across the aisle and work with Democrats. “I don’t know why we wouldn’t give assistance directly to families and individuals who need it,” he told NBC News Dec. 3. “It’s fast — it’s as fast as anything else.”

On Thursday, Hawley was working with Sanders on another stimulus check and said he would introduce legislation for another direct payment. “If Congress doesn’t pass relief legislation with direct payments in it by next week, I will go to the Senate floor to demand a vote on my legislation,” he said in a statement.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez objected to the lack of a stimulus check for ordinary Americans. “COVID relief needs to directly help everyday people. People need stimulus checks & UI,” she tweeted Dec. 4, referring to a larger weekly check for unemployment insurance.

Rep. Roy Blunt: “We need to continue the funding for the vaccine, the delivery of the vaccine,” Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, said Nov. 29 on CNN. “Direct money to struggling families would be helpful and some extension of unemployment.”

Sen. Joe Manchin, Rep. Rashida Tlaib: The Democrats also vocalized their support for direct relief. Manchin helped craft the $908 billion stimulus bill as a way to keep programs from expiring without a safety net, he said.

127 economists: A large group of bipartisan economists, including former President Barack Obama’s top economic advisor, called on Congress Nov. 23 to swiftly pass a stimulus bill, specifically one that includes a check for Americans.

“We urge policymakers to use all the tools at their disposal to revitalize the economy, including direct cash payments, which are one of the quickest, most equitable, and most effective ways to get families and the economy back on track,” the open letter said.

President Donald Trump: On Oct. 6, Trump openly called for Democrats to reach an agreement on a stimulus deal, hours after putting a stop to negotiations on the same day, while being treated for COVID-19 with a drug known to have strong side effects. “If I am sent a Stand Alone Bill for Stimulus Checks ($1,200), they will go out to our great people IMMEDIATELY. I am ready to sign right now,” he tweeted. This week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent a new proposal that reportedly includes $600 stimulus checks to Democratic leaders.

Democrat-authored Heroes Act, versions 1 and 2: Both versions of the bill passed by the House of Representatives on May 15 and Oct. 1, respectively, included a second stimulus check of up to $1,200 per eligible adult.

Republican-Authored HEALS Act: Introduced in the Senate by Republican authors on July 27, this trillion-dollar proposal included a maximum $1,200 direct payment, just like the CARES Act from March and the Heroes Act.

For more information on stimulus checks, here’s how you might get more money in your next check, or a smaller payment next time around. Here’s who may not qualify. And this is a primer on the five different priority groups and when you might realistically be able to get another check if and when it’s passed, based on key dates.

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