Stimulus bill status: Every important thing happening, including $1,400 check update – CNET

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The latest stimulus package is on track to arrive much faster than the last one.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Since taking office, President Joe Biden has repeatedly promised to move quickly to bring the country out of grip of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m going to act, and I’m going to act fast,” Biden said on Friday after meeting with House Democrats on his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. “We need an answer that meets the challenge of this crisis.” Congress is matching Biden’s stride, moving quickly to tee up another round of economic relief for the American people, including a third stimulus check for up to $1,400.”

Early Friday morning, the Senate approved the funding for Biden’s plan; the House of Representatives signed off hours later. Now, Congress can begin turning the framework into an actual law it can vote on. To speed the passage of the bill, Democrats are looking to skirt possible delays using a powerful legislative called budget reconciliation that will allow them to approve Biden’s bill without Republican cooperation.

According to Biden, some part of the bill are nonnegotiable: “I’m not cutting the size of the checkshe said Friday. “They will be $1,400, period. That’s what the American people were promised.” However, he also wants to “target” stimulus checks, which would exclude people who make higher incomes from receiving “a windfall.” If approved, Biden’s plan would also fund programs that include federal unemployment insurance and financial assistance for state, local and tribal governments. Here’s what we know about Biden’s proposal today.

A $1,400 third stimulus payment, but to fewer people?

As part of his plan, Biden has proposed a $1,400 stimulus check. The $1,400 figure, when added to the $600 checks Congress approved at the end of 2020, would add up to the $2,000 amount some in Washington are pushing for. “The American Rescue Plan is going to keep the commitment of $2,000,” Biden said Friday. “$600 has already gone out — $1,400 checks to people who need it.”

Congress, however, for the third check could make two significant changes from the two preceding payments: This third round could seek to include eligible adult dependents and families with mixed-status citizenship. Here are all the ways a third check could bring more money, and here’s how the stimulus check could become more “targeted” to go out to fewer people overall while still keeping the maximum limit higher than December’s $600 threshold.

Biden and Congress could also change the requirements for the third check, lowering the income cap on who qualifies for a payment. “We need to target that money,” Biden said Friday, “So, folks making $300,000 don’t get any windfall. But if you’re [a family with an income under a certain amount] … they need the money, and they’re going to get it.”

The House and Senate have started preparing the way for Biden’s proposal this week, with the plan being to use a tool called budget reconciliation, which could allow Congress to pass Biden’s aid bill without Republican votes.

Wait. Didn’t Senate Republicans propose a package of their own?

With thin margins in the Senate and House, Biden has said he prefers to pass a new stimulus package with support from both parties, which is why he met with the Senate Republicans on Monday. But Biden following the meeting reiterated his eagerness to see a bill passed quickly. And on Wednesday, he stressed during a meeting with Congressional Democrats now is the time to “go big, not small” on a relief package, The Hill reported.


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The GOP stimulus framework would set out $600 billion for economic and vaccine assistance, roughly a third of the $1.9 trillion Biden would spend on his plan. It would have included $1,000 checks to individuals and families, capping income qualifications at $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for a family. For the first two checks, individual payments phased out above an income of $75,000. For families, payments phased out above $150,000. Biden may borrow that plan’s income limits for his own.

While the Republican framework would mirror Biden’s dollar figure for COVID-19 vaccine research and distribution ($160 billion), it would reduce the amount of money going to schools, cut out funding for state and local governments and look at shortening the length of time unemployed workers could receive federal unemployment assistance.

$400 extra in federal unemployment benefits

The weekly $300 federal unemployment checks Congress approved in December as part of the $900 billion COVID-relief legislation are set to expire in March. During his presidential campaign, Biden pushed to reform the unemployment system and said he would work with Congress to extend the unemployment benefits that had been authorized under last year’s CARES Act and renewed in December, “for however long this crisis lasts.”

Biden’s plan would send $400 federal unemployment payments through September with triggers that would extend the benefits after September for those who continue to be out of work and include automatic payment adjustments linked to health and economic conditions.

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Democrats will push to extend and increase federal unemployment aid back to $600 extra per week.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Nationwide coronavirus vaccine delivery

While over 30 million doses have so far been distributed in the US, that’s far behind the 100 million doses Trump promised to distribute by the end of 2020. Biden has set a goal of 100 million vaccine jabs in the first 100 days of his administration.

Biden’s plan will set aside $160 billion for a nationwide vaccine program (a different plan asks for $400 billion). “I will immediately move for the most urgent need of asking the Congress to give me the financial wherewithal to deal with the virus,” Biden said Jan. 8. “I’m committed to getting 100 million shots in people’s arms in the first 100 days.”

Larger child tax credit would bring families more money

In his plan, Biden proposes expanding the child tax credit that currently allows families to claim up to a $2,000 credit for children under age 17. If approved, the plan would extend the benefit to lower-income families who would otherwise not receive the credit. Under Biden’s plan, families could claim up to $3,600 per year for one young child and up to $3,000 per year for an older child.

The plan would also expand child care tax credits for one year to help cover the cost of child care. Under Biden’s plan, families could get back as a tax credit as much as half of their spending on child care for children under age 13, up to to $4,000 for a single child and $8,000 for two or more children.

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Biden has asked Congress to forgive student debt up to $10,000.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Funds to reopen schools during COVID-19

A critical piece of the economic recovery is getting students back on campus. “We are also going to need tens of millions of dollars to help reopen our schools and open them safely,” Biden said on Jan. 8. The Biden plan would work to return students to schools by having a majority of kindergarten-to-8th grade classrooms safely reopen in the first 100 days of the administration.

Money earmarked for state, local and tribal governments

Along with expanding liability protections pushed by Republicans, Democratic support of funding for state, local and tribal governments was a major roadblock to reaching an agreement on a new economic assistance package through the second half of last year. With Democrats soon to be in control of the House, Senate and White House, Biden has pledged support for state and local funding as part of his administration’s relief package. 

Since the fall, economists have pushed for Congress to provide funding for state and local public jobs: “The case for additional aid is strong because the downside risk of doing nothing is quite real,” wrote the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, at the end of last year. “The fact that over 1 million state and local government workers have lost their jobs is a sign that fiscal distress has had real consequences.”

On Jan. 8, Biden again expressed concern that state and local governments are “slashing jobs” as a result of the pandemic and pledged to provide “immediate relief.” In addition to state and local funding, Biden’s plan would provide funds for food and water assistance and food stamps.

Extending the eviction ban through September

On Jan. 20, Biden signed an executive order extending the eviction ban through March, which means it may not be part of the final new stimulus bill at all. Biden’s proposal would extend the eviction and foreclosure moratoriums until Sept. 30. The plan would provide $30 billion in rental assistance for renters and small landlords, especially for low- and moderate-income households.

Is a $15 minimum wage still included?

While the Biden administration had hoped to include a minimum wage hike in the relief bill, on Friday, Biden said he was doubtful it would make this particular stimulus bill: “I don’t think it’s going to survive,” Biden said on CBS news.

However, he is still committed to a rise in the minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour as part of a separate negotiation with Congress. Proponents want to see the changes occur gradually over the next five years.

 On Jan. 24, Biden signed an executive order directing the Office of Personnel Management to create recommendations for a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour for federal jobs.

What about student loan forgiveness?

On Jan. 8, Biden administration officials said the incoming president would ask Congress to cancel $10,000 in student debt for all borrowers and extend the pause on student loan repayment, CNBC reported. Neither stimulus plan appears to tackle student loan forgiveness.

We’ll continue to update this story as Biden reveals more details of his plans. For more information about stimulus money, here are the top facts you need to know about stimulus checks, and here’s what you need to know about the federal unemployment assistance.