Next stimulus package: Every benefit you could receive, including a second check – CNET

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Extended unemployment payments and a second stimulus check are only part of the discussion over the HEALS Act and another stimulus package.


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White House and Democratic negotiators are running out of time to reach an agreement on the next stimulus bill before a self-imposed Friday deadline. Holding up the proceedings is an argument over how to extend two key benefits that expired in July. According to the Washington Post, the two sides will look to renewing enhanced unemployment benefits and eviction protections as they work on other parts of the bill.

While both sides — Republicans including White House officials and Democrats — agree on the need for a second stimulus check for up to $1,200 for those who meet the eligibility requirements, these sticking points and others are creating a gulf over how to balance helping Americans who are financially struggling during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic with a need to jump-start an economy in deep recession.

In addition to a new check, the bill under negotiation could provide a range of financial aid through the end of 2020. What’s the likelihood that major financial benefits like the extra weekly unemployment benefit, payroll protection and an employee retention tax break will be part of the final stimulus bill? Keep reading for our assessment of what’s still on the table. This story updates frequently to reflect new developments on Capitol Hill.

Second stimulus check: Designed to increase spending

What it is: A payment sent to qualifying individuals and families, based on annual income, age, number of dependents and other factors. The first stimulus checks authorized under the CARES Act have gone out to over 160 million Americans — as a check, a prepaid credit card or through direct deposit. But there are problems and after three months, some are still waiting for their stimulus payment.

How it could help you: The payment isn’t taxable and you can use it however you want — to pay for food, housing, clothing and so on. The idea is that spending the checks will help the economy recover faster.

Why we think a second check will pass: The CARES Act authorized payments of up to $1,200 per eligible adult and so does the HEALS Act. The House of Representatives’ Heroes Act, meanwhile, called for $1,200 stimulus checks, but for more people. The White House supports another round of checks, which makes this a likely part of the final bill.

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The HEALS Act proposes to give eligible Americans the same size stimulus check as was issued in March.


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More unemployment benefits for people without jobs 

What it is: An additional weekly check for people who applied for unemployment for the first time or were already collecting unemployment. The program initially granted by the CARES Act provided an extra $600 per week and officially expired on July 31, but lawmakers are looking into another unemployment boost now.

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

Why we think it could happen: Republicans support the extension, but at a reduced rate. Democrats support an extension of the current $600 rate and have balked at the Senate proposal, which would extend benefits based on 70% to 75% of lost wages, starting at $200 a week and over time increasing to $500 a week, with state assistance. The benefits expired without a short-term extension in place. 

After a political stalemate during negotiations, the GOP negotiators have reportedly signaled a willingness to consider the $600 weekly allowance, the New York Times reported on Aug. 4.

Payroll Protection Program to aid businesses in keeping their employees

What it is: Intended to help you retain 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: The program is designed to fund employed workers who would otherwise have lost their jobs during the pandemic. The program got off to a rocky start and it’s not clear the PPP met the goals Congress set for it. 

“Overall PPP hasn’t preserved many paychecks,” wrote Joshua Gotbaum in July, 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: The Republican proposal will target the hardest-hit small businesses, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said during the rollout of the bill, including those with revenue losses of 50% or more over last year.

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A tax credit would help with your pay.


Angela Lang/CNET

Employee retention tax credit could help pay workers

What it is: 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 HEALS Act includes further tax relief for businesses that hire and rehire workers and the Democrat-backed Heroes Act also builds on the tax credits that were part of the initial CARES Act. And there’s additional bipartisan support besides.


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Stimulus standoff on Capitol Hill

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Return-to-work payment of as much as $450 every week

What it is: A temporary weekly bonus for unemployed workers who secure a new job or are rehired, 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 go to laid-off workers who return to work.

Why we think it may not happen: The White House in May expressed interest in the bonus and Portman continues to support the idea, but it’s not part of the proposal Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the other Senate Republicans presented last week.

Rental assistance to help pause evictions

What it is: 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. The current protections have lapsed.

Why we think it could happen: House Democrats included an eviction moratorium in its proposed Heroes Act. It wasn’t part of the Senate proposal, but President Donald Trump on July 29 said eviction protections would be part of the package. As with unemployment insurance, Congress is looking to extend this separately while it works on the final bill.

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


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Payroll tax cut to give you more money in your wallet this year

What it is: 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. The 30 million people who were claiming unemployment insurance as of July 11 would not benefit. “Workers would still be on the hook to pay those taxes next year,” the New York Times reported.

Why we don’t think it’ll happen: Neither the Heroes Act nor the current Senate plan includes a payroll tax cut. The White House continues to push for the idea.

Until we know for sure what the finalized stimulus bill will bring, there are some resources to help you through the financial crisis, including coronavirus hardship loans and unemployment insurancewhat you can do if you’ve lost your jobwhat to know about evictions and late car payments; how to take control of your budget; and if you could receive two refund checks from the IRS.

Julie Snyder contributed to this story.