Americans around the nation are wondering when a new economic stimulus package that includes $1,200 stimulus checks, more funding for unemployment benefits, and a provision to stem the pending eviction crisis will be passed.
Over 16 million Americans are still unemployed, with over 30 million collecting jobless benefits. The coronavirus’s continued spread, combined with the Trump administration’s lackluster response to the pandemic, has many doubting whether they’ll be able to find a job quickly.
On August 8, President Trump issued an executive order and accompanying memoranda due to failed negotiations with Congress for a new stimulus package. At first glance, his executive actions appeared to be able to serve as a bridge until a more robust package could be agreed upon and passed. However, further analysis has shown that the measures fall short and that they may overreach the president’s executive powers.
White House and Congress negotiators agree that a second stimulus check of $1,200 is necessary, so what’s the problem?
For one, Democrats sponsored and passed a $3.2 trillion stimulus bill, the HEROES Act, in the House of Representatives nearly three months ago. The HEROES Act includes the popular $1,200 stimulus checks, about $1.13 trillion of funding for federal agencies, and funding for state and local governments, among other features.
Senate Republicans refused to entertain the HEROES Act and said it was “dead on arrival” from the outset. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to introduce a competing package. After contentious internal negotiations, Republicans announced the $1.1 trillion HEALS Act over two months after the House passed the HEROES Act. The HEALS Act also includes the $1,200 checks but differs from the HEROES Act because a priority of the Republican-sponsored package is liability protection for businesses.
Over the past several weeks, Congress has been negotiating with the White House to bridge the difference between the two packages and President Trump’s priorities. The points of contention during negotiations have been the differing sizes of the bills. The Democrats’ preferred package is $3 trillion while Republicans proposed a package closer to $1 trillion.
The Democratic delegation signaled a willingness to compromise and meet in the middle, but the White House balked at a $2 trillion package. Another point of contention was the extension of the $600 weekly unemployment benefit. Trump’s executive memorandum calls for the supplemental unemployment benefit to be reduced to $400 per week, with states covering 25% of the tab.
Additionally, new reports say that Democrats won’t agree to any bill that doesn’t include funding for the U.S. Postal Service. Trump said this morning on a Fox Business interview that he won’t fund the postal service because without funding, “it means you can’t have universal mail-in voting.”
Former insiders at the postal service have warned that recent changes at the service pose a threat to absentee voting in the coming presidential election. Trump has continued to baselessly claim that increased mail-in voting will lead to widespread voter fraud, even though several studies have shown that it’s not true. Absentee voting has been lauded as a safe alternative to in-person voting amid the coronavirus pandemic. It now appears that the president is willing to block the $1,200 stimulus check if it means not funding the postal service.
With each passing day, the likelihood of a deal being reached this month becomes less likely. However, if a bill is passed quickly, the Treasury Department is expected to process and send out the payments more quickly. The Treasury now has the banking information of more people and experience sending the stimulus payments.
The first round of stimulus checks included $500 for minors under the age of 17. Both Democrats and Republicans would like to expand the age limit so that more adults and dependents qualify for checks. The amount for dependents in a new series of payments hasn’t yet been determined.
While $1,200 stimulus checks are needed by millions of Americans to stay afloat, eviction protections are arguably even more critical. A report by the Aspen Institute, says that 30 to 40 million renters could be at risk of eviction in the coming months. Mass evictions would have a devastating effect on communities throughout the country.
Experts agree that Trump doesn’t have the power to unilaterally issue a round of stimulus checks since Congress has the power of the purse. Hence, his administration needs to work out a deal with Congress for any checks to be issued. The first round of checks was very popular, so all sides have an incentive to agree on a bill to help struggling Americans.
If checks are to be received by the end of the summer, a new stimulus package will need to be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate before the president can approve the bill and sign it into law. Government funding expires on September 30, so avoiding a government shutdown in the middle of national crisis could prove to be a big leverage point in negotiations.
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