Next stimulus bill: You could get more than just a second check – CNET

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Proposals under consideration in Washington could provide financial support though the pandemic.


Angela Lang/CNET

The next economic relief package from Congress, which could be called CARES Act 2, will include new direct payments as well as other potential benefits aimed at helping buoy Americans during the coronavirus-spurred financial crisis.

There are several proposals from both sides of the aisle that could end up as part of the final legislation besides an additional round of stimulus checks. At least some of them will be part of the debate as lawmakers negotiate every part of the rescue package. Take a look at the main ideas beyond new direct payments that are floating around Congress right now, how likely they are to happen, and how they could affect you.

This story is frequently updated with new information.

New enhanced unemployment benefits for jobless Americans

What it is: An additional check — say, $600 a week — for people who applied for unemployment for the first time or were already collecting unemployment. The program was initially granted by the CARES Act and expires this weekend, but lawmakers are looking into another unemployment boost now.


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Why we think it could happen: Republicans have said $600 a week is too generous. “We’re not going to pay people more money to stay at home than work,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday on CNBC.

But with new unemployment claims exceeding $1 million each week for more than four months, and 31.8 million people in total claiming benefits this month, the White House and Senate are planning to extend the benefit. The Senate proposal for extending the benefits “will be based on approximately 70% wage replacement,” Mnuchin said this week. But Republicans could push for weekly payments of $100 or $200, CNBC reported.

How it could help you: An extra weekly payment on top of the ordinary unemployment benefit gives individuals and families a leg up, and cutting it off or reducing it could be devastating for both unemployed workers and the economy. 

“Each dollar of unemployment insurance boosts economy-wide spending by $2,” said Lily Roberts, director of economic mobility at the Center for American Progress. “The Economic Policy Institute estimates that letting the $600 unemployment insurance extension expire would by itself lead to more job loss than happened in the recessions of the early 1990s or early 2000s.”

Payroll Protection Program to help businesses save existing jobs

What it is: Intended to help you keep your job, the Paycheck Protection Program provides forgivable loans to small businesses as an incentive to keep employees on the payroll. 

How it could help you: Not a stimulus check, the program is designed to keep workers employed who would otherwise have lost their jobs during the pandemic. The program got off to a rocky start, and it’s not clear it met the goals Congress set for it. 

“Overall PPP hasn’t preserved many paychecks,” wrote Joshua Gotbaum, a guest scholar of economic studies at the Brookings Institution. “A careful study found that PPP-eligible small businesses laid people off just as quickly as other businesses,” he said.

Why we think it could get extended: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the new stimulus bill will include a second round of payroll protection, “with a special eye toward hard-hit businesses.”

Employee retention tax credit to help pay wages

What is it: Under the program, an employer can receive refundable tax credits for wages paid to an employee during the pandemic. The employer can then use the credits to subtract from — and even receive a refund over — taxes they owe.

How it could help you: Again, it’s not a direct payment to you, but the program encourages businesses to keep workers on the payroll.

Why we think it could happen: The Heroes Act builds on the tax credits that are already part of the CARES Act. And there is bipartisan support for expanding the tax credit.

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A tax credit would help with your pay.


Angela Lang/CNET

Return-to-work bonus of up to $450 a week

What is it: A temporary weekly bonus for unemployed workers who secure or resecure a job, on top of their wages. As proposed by Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, the bonus would be $450 a week.

How it could help you: Under Portman’s plan, the weekly bonus would serve as an incentive for laid-off workers to return to work.

Why we don’t think it will happen: While the White House in May expressed interest in the bonus, and Portman continues to support the idea, it’s not on the short list of proposals being mentioned in current negotiations.

Rental assistance to help stave off evictions

What is it: About 5% of renters for April, May and June haven’t paid their full rent, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council. This plan would help renters pay rent and assist landlords with expenses with less rent money coming in, especially as the US faces a potential “tsunami of evictions.”

How it could help you: The rental assistance program would temporarily help you pay rent if you qualify, put a hold on evictions for a year and help cover costs of rental property owners because of rental-payment shortfalls.

Why we think it could happen: Rental assistance is already part of the $3 billion Heroes Act. Congressional Republicans want to cap the next bill at $1 trillion and are not talking about rental assistance. If the two sides agree on a figure somewhere in between, the program could be part of the legislation, albeit in a modified form.

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Payroll tax cuts may not make the cut in the next coronavirus relief bill, currently known as CARES Act 2.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Payroll tax cut so workers receive bigger paychecks

What is it: President Donald Trump has for months pushed the idea of including temporary payroll tax cuts in the next stimulus package. The proposal could include cutting both the employer and employee share of payroll taxes.

How it could help you: If you have a job, a payroll tax cut would let you keep more of your earnings each check. The plan would not help those who are unemployed and don’t receive a paycheck. As of July 4, the nearly 32 million people who were claiming unemployment insurance would not benefit.

Why we don’t think it will happen: Neither the Heroes Act nor the current Senate plan include a payroll tax cut. Even Trump seems to have given up on the plan.

You have other resources you can tap to make it through the financial crisis, including coronavirus hardship loans and 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.