WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) — Millions of Americans could receive direct payments from the government within a few weeks and receive other benefits under a massive stimulus package agreed to by the White House and the Senate early Wednesday morning, but there are still some hurdles to clear before economic relief makes its way into people’s pockets.
Under the Senate bill, all individual adults with a 2019 adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less would be eligible for $1,200 rebates and couples with joint income under $150,000 would get $2,400. That number phases out for those at higher incomes, up to $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for couples. Those with children would get an additional $500 per child.
According to the text of the bill, the Treasury Department is authorized to distribute the funds electronically to any account authorized to receive tax refunds on or after Jan. 1, 2018. Within 15 days after a payment is distributed, a notice will be sent to the taxpayer's last known address indicating how it was made and who to contact if they do not receive it.
The $2 trillion legislation intended to blunt the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic was approved by the Senate unanimously late Wednesday night, with congressional leaders hoping to get it through the House Friday. It would be the largest stimulus bill ever passed by Congress, providing rapid assistance to small businesses, corporations, hospitals, state and local governments, and individuals.
The final bill is largely consistent with what Senate negotiators have been discussing for days: $500 billion for companies, states, and localities, $350 billion for small business loans, $250 billion to bolster unemployment benefits and $250 billion for payments to individuals and families.
“We’re going to beef up systems that help states, we’re going to increase eligibility for unemployment, and do some other things I think will stabilize the economy,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Tuesday.
While loans to small businesses and bailouts for sectors of the economy decimated by the virus outbreak could help save jobs and keep the economy from sinking into a recession, other provisions would directly assist Americans in dire financial circumstances. Millions have reportedly filed for unemployment benefits since efforts to contain the coronavirus forced the closure of businesses in many states and cities across the country.
The original Senate Republican proposal phased in the payments, giving less to workers earning under $50,000, but Democrats and some Republicans pushed to increase the amount provided to those with lower incomes. This is a one-time payment, but senators have made clear further rebates are possible if the economic damage caused by the virus is prolonged.
President Donald Trump has pushed for those payouts to individuals to be made by April 6. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., indicated that is still the goal, but it is not clear how quickly Congress can get the money out there. According to The New York Times, taxpayers eligible for direct deposit could see payments within weeks, but it could take months for those who do not have electronic deposit information on file with the IRS to receive physical checks.
The Senate package also includes an additional $600 per month for unemployment benefits for four months and expands eligibility for benefits, including gig workers and those who are temporarily unemployed because they are sick or caring for a sick family member. In addition, it allows people to defer student loan payments until October without interest and withdraw from retirement accounts without a fee, and it increases funding for food assistance and farmer bailout programs.
Before anyone gets anything, the bill has to pass the House, and that could still present political complications. Leadership had planned to speed it through using unanimous consent, but some members signaled they might oppose it. Instead, the House will convene Friday morning so members who want to debate the bill can do so publicly.
The legislation is then expected to pass via voice vote and go to the president, who has said he plans to sign it immediately.