A second round of stimulus checks is back on the table in Washington.
Before adjourning for the holidays, congressional leaders have been working to cement a bipartisan package worth roughly $908 billion to help prop up the struggling U.S. economy. The measure initially left out the $1,200 distributed to individuals as part of the CARES Act enacted in the spring. However, a last-minute change could mean another bout of direct payments could hit the bank accounts of millions across the country.
Over the weekend, lawmakers from both parties announced plans to split the relief bill into two proposals: One would cost $748 billion — including $300 billion for small businesses; $16 billion for COVID-19 vaccine testing and distribution; $82 billion for education funding; and a supplemental $300 per week for the jobless. The other would provide $160 billion in state and local aid, plus include liability protections for businesses.
Although it remains unclear how much the new stimulus checks would cost the government, some sources have reported that the payments would amount to about $600 per person — representing half of the first round of payments.
Congress adjourns for the year on Dec. 18, meaning a vote on the proposal must be conducted by the end of tomorrow. If passed, the financial aid would be appropriated at a crucial time for the country, which is facing a surge in new coronavirus infections. On Wednesday, the U.S. reported record numbers for COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths — just ahead of a key meeting to discuss Moderna’s vaccine, which is expected to receive emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. (Millions of doses of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine began to ship out last week, following their FDA approvals.)
Over the course of the pandemic, more than 17 million people in the U.S. have been sickened, and at least 308,200 people have died.
Health authorities are predicting that these numbers will continue to climb — particularly amid the holiday season and cooler months, which have led to more crowds and indoor gatherings that accelerate the spread of the illness. As a result, major metropolitan cities like Los Angeles and New York have renewed restrictions on nonessential businesses, forcing the closures of restaurants, gyms and stores, which has subsequently pushed more workers into unemployment.