We’re only weeks away from the start of 2021 and the status of another round of coronavirus relief checks is no clearer than it was weeks – or even months – ago.
A bipartisan $908 billion stimulus package is expected to be released Monday, coming in at roughly half of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s $2.2 trillion measure but almost double a $500 billion “targeted” approach favored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. The new plan is expected to include a boost of $300 a week in federal unemployment payments, a freeze on evictions, funding for state and local aid, and money for small businesses. It also includes funding for transportation and vaccine distribution.
It does not include another round of coronavirus stimulus checks like those approved in the early days of the pandemic. That round provided up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples with $500 per dependent. Lawmakers from both parties have expressed support for direct stimulus payments but have failed to reach an agreement on additional checks and it’s not part of the latest relief effort.
And time is running out.
The new proposal will be linked to a year-end spending bill that would keep the government operating past a Dec. 11 deadline. Congress is set to go on holiday later in December, pushing the issue of stimulus checks into January, possibly after the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden.
Biden hasn’t closed the door to another round of payments as part of the latest discussions, however. Last week, he said direct payments “may be still in play.”
“I think it would be better if they had the $1,200 (payments to families),” Biden said. “And I understand that may be still in play. But I’m not going to comment on the specific details. The whole purpose of this is, we’ve got to make sure people aren’t thrown out of their apartments, lose their homes, are able to have unemployment insurance (that) they can continue to feed their families on as we grow back the economy.”