Senate passes new coronavirus relief stimulus bill

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Update:

In case you missed it yesterday, the Senate passed the new coronavirus relief stimulus bill.

This means that it is now time for the Senate and House to resolve any differences between their bills and approve the final version that will be sent over to President Biden for him to sign.

If things go smoothly, this could happen as soon as early next week.

The self-imposed deadline for Democrats has been for the bill to become law by March 14 so they are on track to meet this deadline.

We could see stimulus checks start going out about one week after that date if things go well and we’d likely see the bulk of direct deposit payments sent out by the end of April/early May.

Just like other rounds, direct deposit recipients are expected to receive funds the quickest followed by those receiving physical checks and the EIP cards.

During the past two rounds, we saw issues with direct deposit both times.

Various problems arose such as funds going to the wrong bank accounts. So hopefully, the process for direct deposit recipients will not involve any major errors.

Paper checks and EIP cards are sent out after direct deposit but may only lag behind by a week or two. (Last time, those receiving the EIP cards were last.)

The IRS has switched up the payment method for some individuals so for example some people who received a check the first round received an EIP card the second round. (Some people were even switched from direct deposit to a physical check.)

So as these payments start going out, be sure to closely inspect your mail even if you are expecting an electronic payment.

It’s not clear how long it will take for everybody to receive their funds. For the second round, distribution was pretty quick but the current text of the bill states that December 31, 2021 would be the deadline for the IRS to finish sending checks.

Because these will be going out right in the middle of tax season, things could get slowed down a little bit.

If you have not signed up for direct deposit with the IRS, it is highly recommended that you do so.

And if your income dropped in 2020, you may want to try to file your taxes in the next couple of days to ensure that you can receive the maximum amount for the stimulus checks.

Remember, the new income cut off looks like it’s going to be $80,000 per year for an individual.

So if your 2019 income was between $80,000 and $100,000 and it dropped below $80,000 in 2020, you most likely want to file quickly so your payment will be based on your new (eligible) income.

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Update:

There is some big news expected today.

Reports indicate that the Senate is planning on passing the new stimulus bill sometime today.

It looks like the new stimulus check threshold will go into effect which means that you will be entitled to the full $1,400 payment if you make at/under $75,000.

For couples, this income limit will be $150,000.

The big drawback to this bill for many is that the threshold for a partial payment was dropped from $100,000 to $80,000 for individuals and $200,000 down to $160,000 for a couples.

This will still provide aid for Americans who need it the most but unfortunately there will be millions of people who know longer receive stimulus aid this round.

“It’s going to provide immediate relief for millions of people that are going to be able to use it in a very constructive way and also grow the economy in the process,” President Biden said.

This news comes at a time when both supporters and opponents of the new stimulus bill have been surprised by good employment numbers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 375,000 new jobs were created last month which was nearly double their expectations.

This data may have played a role in the compromise that was made on unemployment benefits as they dropped from $400 to $300 per week.

These numbers are very encouraging especially since we expect vaccine distribution to start to ramp up in the next month.

But the economy is still down about 9.5 million jobs since the start of the pandemic one year ago.

“This is a larger jobs hole than at any point in the Great Recession,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

“At this month’s pace, it will take us more than two years to get to pre-pandemic employment levels, and will take even longer at the average pace over the last three months.”

So there is still work that needs to be done.

H/T

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Update:

Lawmakers have been very busy in the last 48 hours trying to finalize the next stimulus package.

So far, it looks like there have been some major compromises made on some pretty big issues.

The first was dropping the increase of the minimum wage to $15. This was dropped due to violating the chamber’s rules and also probably because of a lack of support from moderates.

Another one of the biggest compromises is on the stimulus checks.

It’s looking more likely that the cut off for receiving a stimulus payment will be $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for couples.

The payments will remain at $1,400 but there are many millions of people who will not be eligible for a payment this round most likely.

The other major compromise that just happened relates to unemployment benefits. Reportedly, this benefit will be reduced from $400 to $300 each week.

As part of that compromise though, the payments will be extended through September and the taxes on these benefits will be reduced, so it’s not all a loss.

A lot of these compromises are happening to make sure that moderate Democrats get on board because Democrats need at least 50 votes from lawmakers to pass this bill via reconciliation.

This would require every Democrat to be on board assuming no Republican support which is probable.

We recently heard a report that these 50 Democrat votes were not necessarily guaranteed which is probably why we are seeing so many compromises being made now.

It sounds like lawmakers are aiming to finalize the package over the weekend which means that it will head back to the House and then the White House next week, at which point it could become law.

This means that stimulus checks could start going out and as soon as two weeks that we might see some last minute delays in the negotiations.

H/T

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Update:

While many experts have speculated that Democrats have the votes necessary to pass the next stimulus bill, that might not necessarily be the case.

Democratic Whip Dick Durbin provided a statement today that is casting a little bit of doubt on whether or not Democrats will have the necessary 50 votes to push forward the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill.

“In terms of whether or not we can hold it with 50 Democratic members staying loyal to the the very end and the vice president coming in to break the tie, that still remains to be seen,” said Durbin.

“As a whip, you don’t assume anything until the roll call is made.” 

Durbin reiterated that negotiations were ongoing stating that, “there are active discussions under way… we shouldn’t assume the ultimate outcome until it happens.”

This is pretty interesting because most reports indicated that only two Democratic senators were not on board with the current package.

These two lawmakers appeared to be more open to a targeted approach which is exactly what looks like is going to happen.

So one has to wonder if some of the opposition is now coming from Democratic lawmakers who prefer a less targeted approach.

Perhaps they are trying to hold out for a bill that does not cut off eligibility at $80,000 for individuals.

It’s difficult to tell but this is slightly worrying. During the last stimulus negotiations, there were a couple of points that looked like real progress was about to happen and then everything would blow up and take many steps back.

I’m not saying that it’s going to happen again but it is true that we need to be careful with our assumptions of what is going to happen before we know definitively how votes will be cast.

A lot can still change.

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Update:

There is some pretty big news related to stimulus checks coming out today.

According to CNN, “President Joe Biden has agreed to a compromise with moderate Democrats to narrow the income eligibility for the next round of $1,400 stimulus checks.”

Just how narrow will things be?

Well, the current draft of the bill sets the income caps at $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for couples.

But the new proposal would impose cut offs at $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for couples.

So if you are in that $80,000-$100,000 income bracket as an individual, you might not be eligible for another stimulus check.

The good news is that the same standards will apply when it comes to calculating who is eligible for the full payment.

This means that individuals earning under $75,000 and couples earning under $150,000 will receive the full $1400 payment.

So basically, the big change here is that the stimulus payment will phase out much quicker, but I don’t think they have released the full details of the phase out structure.

It sounds like members of the Senate are continuing to work on the final text of the bill but that we might see them push it forward by the end of this week or perhaps next week.

H/T

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Yesterday, a group of moderate Democrats met with President Biden at the White House to discuss potential amendments to the coronavirus relief package passed by the House of Representatives on Friday.

One of the top items for discussion was the targeted nature of the bill.

“We talked about the package and we talked about targeting dollars,” Senator Jon Tester of Montana said.

One of the key members of this meeting was Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Manchin is one of the key votes needed to pass the stimulus checks as they currently exist.

For sometime now, he has been a vocal proponent of a more targeted approach, especially as it relates to stimulus checks.

Apparently he and his staff are currently going through the bill and talking with party leaders to ensure that the stimulus measures are targeted enough.

Based on these reports (and recent statements from the White House that Biden is open to negotiating the targeted of nature of the checks,) it’s starting to look like we might see lower income thresholds for the checks.

The big question is just how low would they be willing to set the bar?

Currently, an individual earning under $75,000 a year could receive the full $1,400 payment and married couples earning less than $150,000 a year could receive the full $2,800.

But based on the discussions taking place right now with lawmakers and with the White House, we could see changes in the income limits.

Apparently, these moderate Democrats are most worried about high income earners receiving the direct payments.

So that makes me think that the changes would most likely be on the upper end of the income limits and not the lower end.

In other words, it’s possible that the threshold for receiving the full payment could remain at $75,000 a year while the phase out limit could be brought down.

I think it would be extremely unlikely to see the amount of the stimulus checks change as we have received assurance from the White House that President Biden has no interest in that route.

Hopefully, we will learn more details in the coming days.

H/T

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3/1/21 Update:

The latest stimulus bill has passed the House and is now on its way to the Senate.

“We must move swiftly and pass it in the Senate,” Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez tweeted after the House vote. “The people need help now.”

But there are still some big questions about what will happen to the bill in the Senate. For example, will this bill come out of the Senate looking different from the bill that passed the House?

According to experts, the answer to that question is yes.

Lawmakers in the Senate are already discussing making changes and there will likely be many amendments that are taken up as well.

“This is democracy in action,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

“We know that the bill will look different on the way out.”

So what type of changes could happen?

The biggest change that would affect most people would likely be a potential change to the stimulus checks.

It sounds like lawmakers are pretty set on $1,400 as the amount for the stimulus checks. But there is still a possibility that there could be modifications made to the eligibility such as the income limits.

We are even hearing that President Biden is still willing to negotiate on the targeted nature of the checks.

“He has not been willing to negotiate on the size of the checks, but there has been a targeting to ensure that it hits the Americans who need that help the most,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

“That’s an idea that has come up in meetings with Democrats and Republicans. And he’s certainly open to hearing from their ideas.”

That doesn’t mean that the income limits will change but it is possible that there could be some alterations. So that is something big to keep an eye out for.

Another big change could be to the amount given to state and local aid. Currently, $350 billion is being budgeted for state and local governments but that could soon change. Specifically, there’s been a push to allocate $50 billion to expand high-speed internet connections.

“As Congress considers additional relief efforts to manage the virus, it must continue to recognize that an investment in high-speed broadband internet for all Americans is a necessary component of our nation’s recovery,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer and two other lawmakers, Rep. Tom Reed and Abigail Spanberger, wrote.

Then there is the big issue related to minimum wage.

The House voted to pass the increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2025. However, Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough ruled that the provision could not be included in the budget reconciliation bill based on procedural rules.

This is probably the most likely big measure to fall from the bill as there doesn’t seem to be a consensus of support among all Democrats, which would be needed.

We may see some amendments tossed around to try to get this measure to pass in some other type of form but it seems like the best chance for an increase of the minimum wage to pass is at another time in another bill.

Now that the bill is in the Senate we should start to hear more about the negotiations surrounding the bill and have a better sense of what will be possible.

H/T

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2/27/21 Update:

Millions of Americans are now one step closer to receiving a third stimulus check.

This is because early this morning, the House of Representative passed the budget reconciliation bill that will push forward President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

The budget reconciliation route was likely necessary because this bill would not have garnered support from the 60 votes that would’ve been needed to avoid a filibuster.

The bill will now make its way to the Senate which is expected to vote on the measure by March 14.

The IRS predicts that they could start processing the third round of stimulus checks in about one week after that date.

As drafted, individuals will receive $1,400 payments if they qualify for the full amount by having an adjusted gross income of under $75,000. Married couples filing a joint return have an income threshold of up to $150,000.

The biggest change is that qualifying dependents will receive an additional $1,400 and more people can qualify as dependents. (This means that many more college students and elderly parents will likely be eligible this round.)

If you are still not sure about how much you can receive from the third round of stimulus checks, you can use this calculator here.

H/T

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2/25/21 Update:

We finally got a decision on whether or not the measure to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 will be allowed to go forward to the Senate via budget reconciliation.

And it will NOT be allowed based on the ruling from the Senate parliamentarian.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer expressed that he was disappointed but pledged to continue to push for an increased minimum wage.

“We are not going to give up the fight to raise the minimum wage to $15 to help millions of struggling American workers and their families,” Schumer said.

“The American people deserve it, and we are committed to making it a reality.”

The White House also claimed President Biden was disappointed in the decision but that he “urges Congress to move quickly to pass” the relief.

While this measure will not go forward now, there will undoubtedly be efforts to increase the minimum wage in the future.

In fact, we’re already seeing them.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders said that in the coming days he “will be working with my colleagues in the Senate to move forward with an amendment to take tax deductions away from large, profitable corporations that don’t pay workers at least $15 an hour and to provide small businesses with the incentives they need to raise wages.”

There have also been recent proposals to increase the minimum wage to a lower number such as $10 or $11. So most likely we will see this debate return very soon and perhaps it will take a different form at some point.

H/T

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2/24/21 Update:

Later this week, the House is expected to vote on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal.

Most experts predict that the House will pass the bill in a party line vote, so more than likely this bill will be heading to the Senate at the end of the week.

We are still awaiting a decision on whether or not the provision raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2025 will be included.

That decision is likely going to come down to Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough.

She is a nonpartisan parliamentarian who is hearing arguments from both parties before ruling on whether or not the measure can be passed.

Until now, many people have not heard about MacDonough but she is currently one of the most influential actors in government.

It is possible that MacDonough could make a decision as soon as tonight but it is also possible that this could go on for a few days.

If she decides that passing the minimum wage measure is in violation of the Byrd rule (which requires all provisions in the proposed bill to be budget elated), then we may not see the increase in minimum wage go forward.

I say “might” because it is still possible that Democrats could waive the decision and proceed anyway.

But that would be a very controversial move on top of the budget reconciliation move which is already a bit controversial with Republicans.

If she rules that the bill can contain an increased minimum wage, there still is no guarantee it will pass in the Senate.

It is very likely that this provision would continue to face pushback from Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, which could make passing this via budget reconciliation very difficult or even impossible.

We might see a compromise take place which is what Manchin wants.

“$11 is the right place to be,” he said.

“Throwing $15 out there right now just makes it very difficult in rural America.”

Other lawmakers such as Mitt Romney and Tom Cotton have already introduced a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2025, so there is clearly an appetite for compromise.

The issue is that bill lumped in issues related to the hiring of undocumented immigrants which would likely not win over Democrats.

So even if the votes are not there to support increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, there is a good chance that we will see an initiative to pass a separate bill with a smaller increase in the minimum wage.

H/T

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2/23/21 Update:

As expected, the House Budget Committee voted today to advance Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package.

The vote was 19 to 16 with one Democrat, Lloyd Doggett of Texas, joining the Republicans in opposition.

Apparently, his vote in opposition was an accident although I’m not sure how that happened….

This passage means that the bill is headed to the House floor for a vote later this week.

The package includes several large measures including more aid to small businesses, the infamous $1,400 stimulus checks, an increase in the child tax credit, funding for local and state governments, and a lot of funds for a vaccine distribution.

The large item up for debate is the increased minimum wage.

Supposedly, members in the Senate will sit down as soon as tomorrow with Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough to figure out whether the $15 minimum wage is permitted via the budget reconciliation process.

This will be a major decision and dictate the direction that the stimulus package takes.

Experts on both sides have raised points as to why the minimum wage should be allowed to be included. Experts on both sides have also shown wildly different outcomes when it comes to the projected deficit this would create.

So it’s a bit difficult to know who really knows what they’re talking about right now.

But even if lawmakers do decide that the minimum wage can be included, there is no guarantee that there will be enough votes to pass it because two Democrat moderates — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have expressed reservations.

Hopefully, with the meeting set up for tomorrow we will start to get a clear indication about the federal minimum wage increase. Also, if the House can take care of voting this week then it looks like the Senate will be on track to pass the package by the middle of March.

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2/22/21 Update:

This week is set to be a very important week for the next stimulus bill.

It is expected that the The House Budget Committee will approve the 591 page stimulus package today allowing it to move forward in the House.

It is then expected that the bill will get a vote and probably pass the House by the end of the week.

This would give the Senate and the president about two weeks to finalize and pass the stimulus bill before hitting their self-imposed deadline of March 14 (which is the date that federal unemployment benefits expire).

This timeline would mean that the third round of stimulus checks would begin going out around March 21st.

If the bill passes as currently drafted, the stimulus checks will be $1,400 for individuals eligible for the full amount and it is also possible that families will be able to claim an additional $1,400 for dependents.

In addition to that, families with children may be eligible for increased tax credits.

It is still unclear what is going to happen with the federal increase in minimum wage.

Some senators such as Bernie Sanders, the new chair of the Senate Budget Committee, are confident that the measure will pass through Congress and become law.

“Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour is not incidental to the federal budget and is permissible under the rules of reconciliation,” Sanders said in a statement.

“The CBO has found that the $15 minimum wage has a much greater impact on the federal budget than opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and repealing the individual mandate penalties — two provisions that the parliamentarian advised did not violate the Byrd Rule when Republicans controlled the Senate.“

“I’m confident that the parliamentarian will advise next week that we can raise the minimum wage through the reconciliation process.”

But others are not so sure the measure will pass.

It looks like there is almost unanimous opposition to the bill in the Republican party and there are at least a couple of moderate Democrats not on board.

There are disputed conclusions that different studies arrived at showing the economic impact of increasing the federal minimum wage. Some show that it would drive up the deficit by $54 billion while another study found that it would cut the deficit by more than $65 billion.

There are also the findings that close to 1 million people would move out of poverty at the expense of losing 1.4 million jobs.

And finally, there is also the legality of increasing the minimum wage through the budget reconciliation route which I don’t believe is completely settled.

Although some lawmakers like Sanders are confident this move would be allowed, it will come down to whether or not the minimum wage is considered an “extraneous matter” prohibited by the Byrd rule.

According to Politico, “The Byrd rule considers provisions that don’t change revenues or outlays to be ‘extraneous,’ or makes changes to revenues or outlays that are ‘merely incidental.'”

I’m sure the Senate will be hotly debating this interpretation in the next couple of weeks and we will have to see how those debates go before knowing how this outcome will play out.

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2/17/21 Update:

According to the Internal Revenue Service, all of the $600 stimulus checks that were approved last year have been sent out. In some cases, the checks might still be in the mail but at this point they have reportedly all been sent out.

The IRS distributed more than 147 million direct payments for the second round of stimulus checks that total over $142 billion.

This was a relatively quick distribution process as they were required to send them out by January 15, 2021.

So in just about one month from that deadline all of the available payments were sent out which seems to be an improvement from the first round which took several months.

Although things went smoother the second round, there were still about 13 million checks that were mistakenly sent out to bank accounts or invalid addresses.

If you did not receive a check or did not receive the full amount you were due, you still may be able to receive the payment as a rebate when you file your taxes for 2020.

There’s something known as the Recovery Rebate Credit and it can be found on line 30 of 2020 tax Form 1040 or 1040-SR. You’ll need to know how much of the payment you are entitled to when filling out the form.

If you would like to expedite receipt of the credit, you should file your tax return electronically. Keep in mind that anyone who earns under $72,000 can file their tax return electronically for free through the IRS Free File Program.

If your income decreased in 2020 and/or you had a child, chances are you will likely want to file your taxes as soon as possible. Depending on what exactly occurred with your income and what lawmakers draft up, you could be entitled to a $1,400 check and tax credits.

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When President Biden ran for president and as he campaigned during the Georgia runoff elections, he emphasized that quick action would be needed for the next relief package.

“We don’t have a second to waste when it comes to delivering the American people the relief they desperately need,” he said.

But now, as Biden has been in office for 45 days, lawmakers and some people in the public are starting to get a little impatient with how long it’s taking to get this next round of relief out.

A couple of days ago, former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner wrote that “it’s been 42 days since we installed a new Congress. It’s time the American People got their $2,000 checks.”

The impatience is real this time around because Democrats have control in both the House and the Senate.

During 2020, Democrats only controlled the House and Republicans controlled the Senate so it was a lot more understandable that the process would drag on (and indeed it did drag on for months).

But that is not the case any longer and people are well aware of that.

Journalist Walker Bragman wrote, “Joe Biden has been in office almost a month with a Democratic House and Senate. Still no $2,000 relief checks…”

The silver lining is that Democrats are proposing to push a pretty huge $1.9 trillion relief package that will have profound consequences on many Americans. So when the relief finally arrives, it will be big.

Bernie Sanders recently reiterated this when he wrote, “The Covid relief bill when passed is going to do a lot of good for working Americans, but one thing that simply cannot be emphasized enough is that it will cut child poverty IN HALF – the biggest reduction in modern history. That’s why we must act and act quickly.”

According to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Biden is currently hitting the road this week to discuss relief with voters.

“The president is looking forward to getting out in the country, engaging with people about his plans to get relief, direct checks into their hands and expedite vaccine distribution and reopen schools,” Psaki said.

It’s good to hear that the president is on the ground hearing what members of the public have to say about their needs.

But the pressure to act quickly is only going to continue to mount and if Democrats do not meet their self-imposed deadlines to get something done in the next few weeks, there is going to be a lot of backlash.

H/T

Related

Stimulus update: why you should file your taxes ASAP

$1,400 stimulus checks pass through House committee

House pushes forward with $1,400 checks

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