As negotiations over the next round of Covid-19 relief plodded along, hope emerged that a stimulus deal will be reached by the end of the week. Speaking to reporters, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that negotiators will try to reach an overall agreement by week’s end so that legislation could be passed next week:
“We are pleased to report that although we still have a lot of open issues — I just want to be very clear, we’re not at the point of being close to a deal — but we did try to agree to set a timeline that we’re going to try to reach an overall agreement, if we can get one, by the end of this week, so that the legislation could be then passed next week.”
While the message was encouraging, significant issues still remain. “We’re going to work around the clock the next few days to see if we can bridge the issues. Some issues we’ve been able to agree on, some significant issues are still open,” Mnuchin said. Negotiations will resume today.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also sounded a positive note: “We agree that we want to have an agreement. And in that case, we then say, that’s our goal — lets engineer back from there as to what we have to do to get that done.”
Senator Chuck Schumer expressed a similar view. “They made some concessions, which we appreciated; we made some concessions, which they appreciated,” he said.
What will the Stimulus Package Likely Include
Signs emerged that there may be agreement on continuing the $600 unemployment benefit. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled his willingness to agree to a $600 federal unemployment benefit. “Wherever this thing settles between the President of the United States and his team that have to sign it into law and the Democrats, a not-insignificant minority in the Senate and majority in the House, is something I’m prepared to support, even if I have some problems with certain parts of it,” McConnell said.
Mr. Mnuchin said that he and Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, proposed reviving the eviction moratorium through the end of the year. The HEALS Act, legislation introduced by Senate Republicans, doesn’t include an eviction moratorium. The HEROES Act, enacted by House Democrats does include a moratorium. President Trump has signaled his support for reviving the eviction moratorium.
As for stimulus checks, there seems to be less disagreement between the parties, although the details have not been disclosed. Based on the provisions in both the HEROES Act and HEALS Act, a $1,200 ($2,400 for married couples who file a joint return) stimulus payment for eligible individuals seems likely. Mr. Mnuchin has said that the President supports this amount.
It also seems likely that the age restrictions on rebates for dependents found in the CARES Act will be removed for the second stimulus payment. This would make college student dependents, among others, eligible for the rebate.
Of course, the next round of stimulus relief requires passage in both the Senate and the House, and approval by Mr. Trump. As Mr. McConnell has noted, there are some Republicans in the Senate who balk at the idea of adding trillions of dollars to the national debt: “If you’re looking for a total consensus among Republican senators, you’re not going to find it. So we do have divisions about what to do.”
When will Benefits Go Out
The big question on the minds of many is when will the government issue stimulus checks and resume federal unemployment benefits. As for the stimulus checks, the government should release them faster than the first payment sent out under the CARES Act. The first payments took about three weeks to start going out, with many recipients waiting much longer.
Mr. Mnuchin said earlier this week, however, that the second stimulus check could go out “the following week” after the stimulus relief package is signed into law: “I could have them out immediately. If I could get [the bill] passed tomorrow, I could start printing them the following week. . . . I could get out 50 million payments really quickly.”
Resuming the $600 unemployment benefit, or whatever amount is ultimately agreed upon, is more complicated. Unlike the stimulus check, these benefits don’t involve the Treasury simply issuing checks or direct deposits. Instead, the payments are made through state unemployment insurance systems.
According to a CNBC report, states made changes to their computer system when the $600 benefit expired. To reverse those changes and resume an enhanced unemployment benefit could still “take weeks,” even for those states with modernized systems.
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