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Is a Second Round of Stimulus Checks on the Way?

Lawmakers are negotiating new relief legislation

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As households nationwide continue to struggle financially due to the recession, lawmakers are preparing new economic relief legislation that would help families stay afloat. Some of that assistance could come in a second round of direct economic impact payments, more commonly known as stimulus checks.

While negotiations are just getting started on Capitol Hill, with no guarantee of an eventual deal on new legislation, there are signs that stimulus payments could be one area of agreement among lawmakers. Monday afternoon, Senate leaders announced their proposed legislation would include a second round of stimulus checks to be issued under the same guidelines as the payments that went out earlier this year as part of the CARES Act. (Read more about how the first round of stimulus checks was issued.) The Senate proposal is called the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act.

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Under the current HEALS proposal, individuals who earn less than $75,000 per year would be eligible for checks of $1,200, with couples who filed jointly and earned less than $150,000 qualifying for $2,400 payments. The amount of the payment would gradually decrease for people with higher incomes, with individuals who earn more than $99,000 per year not receiving any payment ($198,000 for couples who filed taxes jointly). Families also would receive an additional $500 payment for each dependent. In a notable change from the CARES Act, under which only children under the age of 17 qualified as dependents, adult dependents also would qualify for those additional $500 payments through the HEALS proposal. Among those excluded from the first round of stimulus checks were older high school students, some college students, aging parents and others claimed as dependents for tax purposes.

“We are pleased this bill includes much-needed economic relief for older adults, in the form of automatic payments, which will help those struggling to afford basic necessities,” says Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s executive vice president and chief advocacy & engagement officer. “We also applaud the draft for including additional support for families with adult dependents. Unfortunately, there are still too many older Americans facing hunger, especially with skyrocketing food prices, and more food assistance is urgently needed.”

What the House voted on

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In May, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, which is that chamber's proposal for what the next round of stimulus legislation should include. That bill also has a new round stimulus checks of up to $1,200 per individual, $2,400 for couples, that also would decrease in amounts for higher-income households. But under the HEROES Act proposal, dependents of all ages would qualify for $1,200 payments each. One household could only receive payments for up to three dependents. The HEROES Act would also allow people who have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, rather than a Social Security number, qualify for economic impact payments.

Under both the HEROES Act and the HEALS Act, Social Security beneficiaries, disability recipients, low-wage workers and others who might not normally file tax returns would be eligible for stimulus checks.

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The White House also has signaled its support for a second round of stimulus checks. Still, any possibility of additional economic impact payments to families is tied to whether lawmakers can reach an agreement on an overall relief package. There are still wide areas of disagreement among legislators on key matters including expanded unemployment benefits, nursing home protections, nutrition assistance, liability protections to shield businesses and health care facilities from COVID-related litigation, and assistance to state and local governments, for example.

Federal lawmakers already have enacted four economic stimulus bills this year tied to the coronavirus pandemic, adding up to nearly $3 trillion.

“We urge Congress to come together in a bipartisan way to save lives and address the urgent health and economic crisis before us,” LeaMond said of the current negotiations. “Families across the country are demanding action.” 

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