(CBS Detroit) — The next stimulus check is inching closer to reality. The $1,400 direct payment would be part of the proposed $1.9 trillion economic relief package. President Joe Biden’s stimulus, in its current form, would also include additional unemployment benefits, an upgraded child tax credit and more help for the millions of Americans enduring the economic fallout of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This week, a third economic relief payment has moved closer the bank accounts of millions of Americans. But the timeline remains somewhat uncertain.
On Monday morning, a group of 10 Senate Republicans, proposed a counteroffer to the American Rescue Plan. Their $618 billion package would reduce the direct payment to $1,000 and place a ceiling at $40,000 in annual earnings for recipients, after which the stimulus check amount would phase out. The added federal unemployment benefit would stay at $300 and last through June. The changes to the child tax credit and many other elements of the Biden package were stripped out entirely.
The Republican Senators met with the President, who promised at the outset of his term to work across party lines, and came away hopeful. Biden, for his part, also remains willing to negotiate; one possible change could be lowering the annual income threshold for stimulus checks to $50,000. But reducing pandemic assistance and slowing it down for the sake of bipartisanship is not an option. The latest Republican proposal amounts to less than a third of what’s already on the table, and negotiations take time. “The risk is not that it is too big, this package,” noted White House press secretary Jen Psaki. “The risk is that it is too small.”
Subsequent to their meeting, the President told Democrats that the Senate Republicans’ counterproposal was “not even in the cards.” The administration has doubled down on using the reconciliation process to achieve its aim. And it appears to have enough votes to get the legislation to Biden’s desk.
The Democrats continue to lay the groundwork for passing a sizeable stimulus package with a nearly party-line vote and a simple majority in the Senate. The House approved a budget bill Wednesday that would allow the Senate to advance economic relief with 51 votes, rather than a veto-proof 60. The Senate will likely act on the same legislation this week. From there, attention can turn to the specifics of the relief bill.
What does all this mean for when Americans might see that third stimulus check? The administration’s goal is to sign the American Rescue Plan into law by March 14. That is also when the current $300 federal unemployment benefit bonus expires. But a mid-March signing is an aggressive timeline. Negotiations aren’t necessarily over, even if this week’s Republican proposal seems dead on arrival. Some left-leaning Democrats in the House have asked for larger stimulus checks. And centrist Democrats in the Senate, like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have expressed concerns about the $1.9 trillion price tag. Intra-party negotiations also take time. And then there’s the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump that the Senate will have to handle in the intervening weeks.
Assuming President Biden is able to sign the relief package on March 14, direct deposits would likely start the week of March 22, with checks beginning to arrive the week of March 29. This timeline could easily be pushed back a week or two for any of the reasons mentioned above.
The economy shrank by 3.5 percent in 2020, the largest single-year decline since the end of World War II. Unemployment figures remain historically high, with 779,000 people applying for unemployment insurance and another 348,000 applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. As of a few weeks ago, approximately 18 million people were receiving some sort of unemployment benefit. That’s one out of every nine workers.
An economic bounceback depends on the widespread distribution of a vaccine. But efforts to inoculate the public have proceeded in fits and starts. Widespread shortages have forced some cities to temporarily close vaccination centers and cancel appointments in recent weeks. A major winter storm blanketing the northeast early in the week has further hindered efforts. Meanwhile, domestic COVID cases have exceeded 26.5 million, with deaths topping 450,000.
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