Americans from all walks of life are eagerly awaiting news about the new stimulus bill. The new stimulus package’s final passage has yet to occur, but President Biden and the Democrats are pressing hard to get it signed into law. Already passed by the house and soon to be facing a vote in the Senate, the new stimulus bill is a frequently discussed topic in both houses of Congress, the business community, and at the kitchen table of every American household.
Beyond the broad strokes, whether you’re for or against it, what you’re probably wondering is: What’s going to happen with the stimulus checks? Let’s start by getting into how we arrived at this point, and then we will unpack the ins, outs, and unknowns regarding the stimulus bill and the eagerly anticipated stimulus checks.
How Did We Get Here?
Before getting into the specifics about the checks or even the current bill being debated, it’s helpful to assess the situation. Stimulus is not a new concept and is responsible for many of the present’s most beloved government programs.
In March, Congress passed a series of bills to aid American workers, families, businesses, and local government bodies. The big bill everyone remembers is the one that gave them a direct $1,200 payment, the CARES Act. Additionally, unemployment benefits were sweetened, including the extra $600 of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and extending unemployment benefits to those not traditionally able to apply.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was also an aspect of the CARES Act that lodged itself in the collective consciousness by supporting businesses with loans and grants to continue paying their workers even if there wasn’t sufficient revenue to justify it.
Just this December, Congress passed another stimulus bill in the lame-duck months of the Trump Presidency that allocated an additional $600 stimulus check for individuals and provisions for the arts that many have argued were necessary to save live venues for the performing arts.
All that aside, only 10% of Americans have been vaccinated for COVID, and economic conditions for many remain bleak. Because of this, the Biden administration’s first big legislative push will be a broad stimulus package for all levels of American life. Now we’ll look at some of the specifics of this gargantuan bill.
What is the Stimulus Bill?
The stimulus bill, officially known as the American Rescue Plan, is a collection of programs, laws, and extensions of existing legislation meant to offset the economic suffering many Americans have experienced due to COVID.
It is a hotly debated piece of legislation between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans argue that there is much in the bill unrelated to COVID relief. Democrats have responded that this level of stimulus and relief is a necessary expense to help the American people heal from the financial damage they have experienced and continue to experience in the wake of COVID.
The original bill will, among many other things:
- Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour
- Extend extra unemployment payments from $300 to $400 through the end of August
- Extend the child tax credit to $3,000 and $3,600 for children under 6
- $50 billion for coronavirus testing and contract tracing
- $19 billion to expand the public health workforce
- $16 billion for vaccine distribution
- $90 billion for transportation
- $130 billion for K-12 schools
- $40 billion for child care centers
This bulleted list could go on for quite a while and still not get to the point you’re most interested in, so I’ll get to it.
At the top of the public’s interest in the new stimulus bill are the $1,400 personal payments to individuals. In contrast to the debate between the two parties, the American public is very much in favor of direct cash payments. According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, almost 80% of the population supports $1,400 stimulus checks. This makes for the rare and happy occasion when the majority opinion is so overwhelming that politicians can simply point to the polls to back up their support for the provision.
The average American has reason to take an interest in what’s unfolding in DC currently, but it would be wise to hold back on getting downright excited. The bill isn’t passed yet, and it will have to make its way through the gauntlet of discourse and rhetoric better know as the United States Senate. With an even 50-50 split in between the parties (sorry Bernie, I’m painting with a broad brush) and a recent history of Republicans voting tight to party lines while Democrats struggle to whip votes from their Blue Dog colleagues with more ambitious legislation, it’s not over until it’s over.
The Process is a Process!
Let’s start with a quick reminder about how American legislation works and how it doesn’t work. The President has nothing to do with legislation besides stating what they would like to see and signing the finished bill. I often hear from friends, articles, podcasts, and television that “the President should,” or “the President has to,” as though the President has any power whatsoever to make their wishes a reality.
As outlined by our brilliant constitution, the reality is that all legislation begins in the legislative branch; go figure. The President can only suggest and request things of Congress, not write law themselves. Some of you might be reading this thinking, “well, what about executive orders, hmmm?” What ABOUT them? They’re fickle, easily reversed, and usually an indicator that an idea didn’t have broad or even majority support. One of President Biden’s first acts in office was signing executive orders reversing some of the more controversial executive orders signed by President Trump.
Current News About Stimulus Checks
The Biden administration is betting big on their ability to get this bill passed Congress and on the President’s desk for a signature.
It’s hard to write about the ‘latest news’ as it changes every time I go to bed. What was ‘current’ when I began to outline the article was old news when I started writing and veritable history by the time I was halfway done. A professional hazard of mine, if you will.
This is why I wanted to write about this after there was more concrete information. At this point, it’s necessary to give readers a bit of information as to where the bill stands.
As of now, the bill that will determine whether or not Americans receive a $1,400 check is currently making its way through Congress. It has passed in the House of Representatives and will be up for a Senate vote soon.
Contention over the bill has come from many angles and for many reasons. The main complaint from the right and some centrists Democrats is that the legislation includes sections that don’t pertain to COVID or the issues caused by it. Foreign aid, benefits for illegal immigrants, infrastructure spending are just a few of the concerns that turned all House Republicans and two House Democrats into “nay” votes this past week.
The Senate parliamentarian has declared that the provision for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour cannot remain in the bill as it is currently written.
Individuals making up to $75,000 annually will be entitled to the full $1,400 payment. Married couples making up to $150,000, filing their taxes jointly, will be entitled to $2,800, an unnecessarily complex way to reiterate what is has already outlined for individuals. Additionally, individuals with dependents, children, or adults incapable of working due to disability or age, will receive an additional check on their behalf.
Who Doesn’t Get A Check?
The Biden administration agreed on March 3rd to Senate Democrats’ requests to lower the income limit from $100,000 to $80,000 for individuals to receive the proposed $1,400 stimulus check. Furthermore, there is a small window of reduced payments between the upper limit of $75,000 for full payment and the limit for any sort of payment at $80,000. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, roughly 16 million Americans will miss out on any stimulus check based on the agreement reached.
For those wondering why the Senate Democrats would request this and why the White House would agree to this, there are reasons. With a completely even split in the Senate, some centrist Democrats are concerned that the extent of this bill’s generosity will put them in a tough spot. Appearing too generous to those not truly in need will alienate them to their constituents and might lose future elections for them. It makes sense for the Biden administration not to make the perfect the enemy of the good in this instance if passing a hearty stimulus package is what you consider ‘the good.’
When Do I Get My Stimulus Check?
In a letter to the Democratic caucus in mid-February, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated the bill will be voted on and passed by March 14. That said, there are several reasons for potential delays. Cnet made a helpful chart in this article that outlines the multiple possibilities and the length of time that payments could take in each scenario.
The bill hasn’t passed, but out of all the points of contention within it, the $1,400 checks are not one of them. Senators understand that this is a necessary and wildly popular portion of the bill. If you make less than $75,000 each year, I feel comfortable telling you that your money will arrive or begin its journey within the next month.