On Sunday, congressional leaders officially reached a long-sought agreement on a desperately needed pandemic relief bill for the United States. The House and Senate agreed on a $900 billion stimulus package to be sent to individuals, families, schools, businesses, and government-funded programs—including nutrition assistance programs—throughout the country. According to the New York Times, President Donald Trump signed the bill before midnight on Sunday.
The package will include the eagerly awaited second stimulus check — only this time, it's just for $600 for individuals who qualify, rather than the prior bill's $1,200; there will also be an extra $300 per week in unemployment benefits, as opposed to the extra $600 of the last stimulus package. The bill will also fund the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines, increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and extend eviction protection around the country, among other elements.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the relief bill had been greenlit on Sunday night, stating: “We can finally report what our nation has needed to hear for a very long time.” He then promised: “More help is on the way.” But, of course, was vague on the details about that. The passage of the relief bill was Congress’ last major act of the year before breaking until 2021.
While it's undoubtedly a relief that this package was passed, there are still major concerns on the compromises made within it, and lots of questions abound. Below, we explain everything we know about the second pandemic relief bill and the incoming $600 stimulus checks.
What is in the second stimulus bill?
The second stimulus bill contains $900 billion worth of funding for numerous government programs across the U.S., loans for small businesses, and a second round of stimulus checks for people who qualify. The second-largest bill passed during the COVID-19 pandemic — the first being this past spring's $2 trillion CARES Act — this new stimulus package will provide the U.S. with the following: the return of the Paycheck Protection Program for small business in need of funding, with $12 billion saved specifically for minority businesses; a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits; funding for food banks and senior food programs; an expansion of the Pandemic-EBT program; eviction protection through January 31; aid for childcare centers, K-12 schools and colleges; funding for COVID-19 vaccines; a second stimulus check of $600 to individuals, families, and children who qualify; and an additional $300 in unemployment for those who qualify.
How much will the stimulus checks be for?
Who will get the stimulus checks?
According to the New York Times, the $600 stimulus checks are expected to be available to individuals who make up to $75,000. Couples who make up to $150,000 would receive $1,200. For households with children claimed as dependents, families would receive $600 per child. Children aged 17 and older claimed as a dependent do not qualify for stimulus checks.
How will we get the stimulus checks?
As with the first stimulus checks, if the IRS has your bank account information on file, the money will be distributed via direct deposit. For those who do not have a bank account or bank account information on file with the IRS, a paper check or prepaid debit card will be mailed to the most recent address they have on file.
What if I never got my other stimulus check?
For eligible recipients who did not receive the first stimulus check sent out earlier this year, they will be able to claim the $1,200 as a recovery rebate credit on their 2020 tax returns. On a page titled “Recovery Rebate Credit” on the IRS website, the organization explains: “Generally, this credit will increase the amount of your tax refund or lower the amount of the tax you owe.” Those who received the full amount of their check do not need to provide any Recovery Rebate Credit information on their 2020 tax form.
What does this mean for unemployment insurance?
People currently receiving unemployment benefits will receive an extra $300 per week, half of the original $600 received earlier this year. The extra check would be given until March 14, an extra 11 weeks past the original December 26 expiration date. Self-employed people and gig workers who make use of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance are also eligible for the additional unemployment payments.
How does this change student loan payments?
The time limit enforced for students to receive help from the federal government to assist in paying their student loan interest has been lifted. Prior to the stimulus package, if a student took what was considered too long to finish school, they would receive no more help from the government in paying off their interest. More students and incarcerated people would also be eligible for Pell Grants.