Lawmakers have been discussing second $1,200 stimulus checks for 5 months. Why those payments are still uncertain

Personal finance

Millions of Americans are hoping another $1,200 stimulus check will make it to their bank accounts.

Whether that happens or not depends on Congress.

Republicans, Democrats and the White House still have not been able to strike a compromise on how much to spend and where to provide aid for the next coronavirus stimulus package.

That means the fate of another round of one-time payments hangs in the balance.

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Congress approved the first disbursement of $1,200 checks with the CARES Act that was passed in March. The payments were targeted at low- to middle-income individuals and families. Individuals and married couples who file jointly were eligible for up to $1,200 or $2,400, respectively, plus $500 per child under age 17.

The IRS and Treasury Department sent more than 160 million of those payments through direct deposit or mail in the following months.

As talks on Capitol Hill turned to another stimulus relief package, a second round of $1,200 checks has at times seemed like a sure thing and, at other times, a long shot.

Here’s how those discussions have taken shape over the past five months.

May 15: House passes HEROES Act

In May, the House of Representatives passed a bill called the HEROES Act that called for more than $3 trillion in spending. The legislation included additional $1,200 stimulus checks.

This time, dependent checks would be raised to $1,200, for a maximum of $6,000 per family. The legislation also sought to expand eligibility for dependents over 17 and for people who do not hold U.S. citizen or resident alien status.

July 9: Capping eligibility at $40,000 in income?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he would consider capping eligibility for a second stimulus check at $40,000 in income.

In response, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC, “We do support another round of economic impact payments. … The level and criteria we’ll be discussing with the Senate.”

July 27: Senate Republicans introduce bill with $1,200 checks

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks at a press conference at the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 22, 2020.

Nicholas Kamm | AFP | Getty Images

McConnell introduces a package of proposals, called the HEALS Act, that includes a second round of stimulus payments.

The proposal calls for payments similar to the first round, with $1,200 per individual or $2,400 per married couple, plus $500 per dependent. This time, however, dependents over 17 would be eligible for the money.

In an interview, President Donald Trump said he wants the second stimulus payments to be more than $1,200.

July 30: GOP senators propose $1,000 stimulus checks

A group of Republican senators introduce a bill that calls for $1,000 stimulus checks for both adults and children. Under the proposal, a family of four could receive $4,000.

This time, all adult dependents would be eligible.

Leaders behind the bill include Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La.; Steve Daines, R-Mont.; Mitt Romney, R-Utah; and Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Aug. 13: Congress breaks without passing stimulus

Approval of a coronavirus stimulus bill looks to be weeks away as congressional leaders decamp to their home districts.

While Capitol Hill leaders couldn’t reach an agreement on other issues, one thing they seemed to agree on was those $1,200 checks. But the impasse would dash the Treasury Department’s hopes of getting more one-time payments to Americans in August.

Trump tweets his frustration, saying, “Democrats are holding this up!”

Sept. 10: Senate Republicans fail to move small aid bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and President Donald Trump at an Oval Office cabinet meeting on July 20, 2020.

Doug Mills | Getty Images

A Republican bill including about $500 billion in new aid fails to get the necessary votes to pass the Senate.

The proposal included enhanced unemployment benefits and more aid to small businesses. Notably, another round of stimulus checks was not in the bill.

Sept. 16: Trump says Democrats are holding up stimulus payments

President Trump tweets that the Democrats are “heartless” and “don’t want to give stimulus payments to people who desperately need the money.”

Sept. 30: Both parties still want more $1,200 checks

Second $1,200 stimulus checks that are “similar” to the first payments will be in the next coronavirus stimulus package, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview.

Though both parties are in favor of sending more direct payments, other issues continue to drag on negotiations.

Oct. 1: House Democrats pass updated stimulus bill

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaks at the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 7, 2020.

Stefani Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images

House Democrats revise and pass an updated HEROES Act, bringing the total cost down by about $1 trillion in a bid to appeal to Republicans.

The proposal includes $1,200 stimulus checks, but with more generous terms than the first set. Dependents of all ages would be eligible for $500 payments.

Individuals with taxpayer identification numbers also would qualify for checks, a change from the first payments which required valid Social Security numbers.

Oct. 7: Trump proposes standalone legislation to send $1,200 checks

As negotiations fail to move forward, Trump proposes standalone legislation on areas lawmakers agree on.

That would include a bill for $1,200 checks. While Capitol Hill leaders generally agree on the idea of more one-time payments, they would have to find a compromise on other terms, such as whether to expand eligibility beyond U.S. citizens and resident aliens.

Trump’s proposal marks a reversal of the president’s call to discontinue stimulus negotiations until after the election. The idea of standalone legislation is rejected by Democrats.

Oct. 12: Negotiations at ‘impasse’

The White House has come up with an offer for a bigger stimulus bill, per Trump’s wishes.

The package includes stimulus checks of $1,200 per adult and $1,000 per child. It also includes $400 per week in enhanced federal unemployment insurance through the third week of January.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Sunday that negotiations remain at an impasse until the White House agrees to address certain issues, namely Covid-19 testing, tracing and treatment.

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