Will there be a second coronavirus stimulus check this year? If the new proposal passes, it'll put more IRS rescue money in your pocket. Here's the status today and what could happen next.
May 28, 2020 7:00 p.m. PT
Weeks ago, many assumed the first round of coronavirus stimulus checks was a one-off package, delivering up to $1,200 apiece to eligible Americans. Now, however, a second relief bill is under serious consideration in Washington. Congress is weighing further aid that could include additional payments to US residents -- to the tune of another $1,200 maximum per person, on top of what the first round of relief checks provided. Congressional leaders from both parties are set to wrestle what another financial package would look like for individuals, families, businesses and those who are out of work.
The bill in question is called the Heroes Act. The Democrat-led House of Representatives already passed the new economic proposal, which means the relief package is now before the Senate. In addition to checks for individuals, the new legislation would provide broader support for families, front-line workers and US residents who are not citizens. It's worth $3 trillion in total.
Here, we'll outline how much money the Heroes Act proposes, common arguments for and against the proposed bill and what happens next. This story updates frequently with new information and is intended to provide an overview of the situation. If you're waiting for your money, you can track the status of your stimulus check with the IRS and use a free USPS service to see when your check is coming in the mail. We also know some possible reasons why your stimulus check hasn't arrived.
What's the purpose of a second stimulus check?
The goal of a second stimulus round is the same as the first: To help keep a shaky US economy from crashing. And the pressure is mounting. Last week, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 38.6 million Americans sought unemployment benefits (PDF) in the past 10 weeks. That number is now up to 42 million people, CBS News reports.
In some states, unemployment has already reached 20%. During a recent Senate hearing, chair of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors Jerome Powell called for additional economic relief. And earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund forecast a deep global recession that could become the worst since the Great Depression.
Is the Senate likely to pass the Heroes Act?
The Senate, which is currently in recess for an extended Memorial Day holiday, reportedly departed without putting the Heroes Act on the agenda, so it isn't certain what will happen (more on this below).
The pushback to the Heroes Act is already strong among members of the Republican-controlled Senate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said that the bill wouldn't pass as is.
Possible outcomes include it morphing into a different aid package through bipartisan negotiation. It could also fail, with a new proposal taking its place. Or, it could dissipate altogether until a future proposal appears and the process begins anew.
Heroes Act stimulus check: How much money could you get?
The Heroes Act includes a wide range of benefits, such as a second direct payment to individuals and households of up to $1,200 per family member, according to a fact sheet from the House Appropriations Committee (PDF). Here are some breakdowns.
Individuals: Under the proposed law, an eligible person would receive $1,200 if their adjusted gross income, or AGI, from their 2019 federal tax filing or 2018 filing (if you haven't filed taxes yet) was less than $75,000. As with the current stimulus package, payments would incrementally decrease as your AGI goes up. A chart from the Congressional Research Service shows proposed payments by income (PDF).
Children and dependents: Each dependent would qualify for a $1,200 payment. That includes college students, children over 17, disabled relatives and a taxpayer's parent. This detail differs from the previous CARES Act, which provided a $500 payment just for children age 16 and under. Under the bill (PDF), dependents would receive retroactive payments to compensate for being passed over in the first stimulus package.
Families: Households would qualify for a maximum payment of $6,000 total, capped at five family members at $1,200 apiece. Your scale of your payment allowance would begin to decrease as you surpass an AGI of $150,000 for married couples filing jointly, or $112,500 for heads of household.
Noncitizens: To qualify for a payment under the current CARES Act, US residents are required to have a Social Security number. With the Heroes Act, those without a Social Security number could instead use an individual taxpayer identification number, which will allow noncitizens to qualify for a payment. As with the stipulation for dependents, people who qualify in this category would receive retroactive payments from the first stimulus package.
What else does the Heroes Act propose?
The Heroes Act, officially the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, includes a handful of additional measures to provide support for individuals and businesses.
Unemployment benefits: The bill would carry over the current enhanced unemployment benefit of $600 per week (on top of states' typical unemployment payout) to January 2021.
Payroll protection: The Heroes Act would expand the employee retention tax credit to help employers keep workers on the payroll.
Funds for essential workers: Under the bill, state and local governments would receive $1 trillion to pay salaries for first responders, health care workers, teachers and other essential workers in danger of losing their jobs. The bill would also fund hazard pay for workers with high-risk jobs.
Support for businesses: The bill would bolster the Payroll Protection Plan, which provides payroll assistance to small businesses, and provide additional funding for the US Postal Service.
Arguments for and against a second stimulus bill With the bill moving from the House of Representatives to the Senate for debate, here are some of the arguments on both sides of the discussion.
What proponents of the Heroes Act say: Since the middle of March, more than 38 million US workers who have lost their jobs have filed for unemployment. The actual number of those unemployed could be millions higher, according to the Economic Policy Institute, because many people who are eligible were unable to file a jobless claim. With the job losses, the nation's unemployment rate reached 17.2% (PDF), according to the US Department of Labor. Newly unemployed people, along with others taking an economic hit from the pandemic, would benefit from having more money to spend right now.
What opponents of the Heroes Act say: Some in Washington, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, question whether the preceding relief measures have met their goals and want to focus on short-term economic measures. McConnell and others have also expressed concern about how additional stimulus packages will increase the historic federal deficit. Because that payment is available in addition to regular jobless benefits and enhanced unemployment benefits of $600 per week, some critics worry it will make it harder to reduce unemployment if people don't have an incentive to return to work.
What will it take for a second stimulus check?
It isn't clear when the Senate will make a decision on the Heroes Act, though it's suggested that the negotiations could take place in June, after the Senate's current 10-day recess, according to NBC News.
It's widely believed that Republicans will continue to push back against the bill and may work with The White House on their own stimulus package. McConnell has said more aid may be necessary, but it may take a different form than the House bill being proposed -- and one worth less than a third of the proposal. Congress is also working to make it easier to forgive small business loans that are part of the CARES Act that passed in March.
In order to receive a second stimulus check, any new coronavirus rescue package that passes both the House and the Senate would still need a signature from President Trump before it could take effect. After that, the IRS now has a system in place to organize and distribute those checks.
We'll update this story with new information as it arises. While the future of a second stimulus bill remains undecided, we'd like to share available resources about unemployment insurance, what you can do if you've lost your job, what to know about evictions and late car payments, and how to take control of your budget.