As Stimulus Talks Drag, Is A $600 Check Enough?

With a Friday deadline looming over lawmakers’ heads, the latest stimulus package seems closer than ever. But nothing has been signed just yet. The $900 billion stimulus proposal didn’t originally include direct payments to Americans, though the latest word from Congress tells us checks will be included after all — even if they’re only half of the CARES act counterpart. 

As stimulus checks have been one of the largest pain points for lawmakers, the addition means we very well could have something tangible by the weekend. This is just in time for the 10 million people whose unemployment benefits would end on December 26 and the millions who would face eviction without aid. 

Here’s what’s expected to be included

Aid for schools and vaccine distribution is included, though the exact breakdown isn’t quite clear. Here’s what we know so far.

  • Stimulus checks — While it was a late addition, one time direct payments to Americans is in the current plan. It’s just not at the level of the CARES act. Americans are expected to get $600, $700 if we’re lucky. 
  • Unemployment benefits — $300 weekly unemployment aid is included — a 50% decrease from the $600 weekly benefits offered by the CARES act. The long-term unemployed also see some relief with the extension of extra state unemployment benefits.
  • Business aid — More than $300 billion is pledged to business support, including another round of paycheck protection for struggling small businesses.
  • Renters and food assistance — $25 billion is allocated to help renters say in their homes. Food assistance is also included. 
  • Postal service — $10 billion has been allotted to bail out the U.S. Postal system.

[ Read: Latest PPP Data Raises Questions About the Distribution of Loans ]

What’s the holdup?

It’s the same old story, Democrats and Republicans can’t agree on what should be included and prioritized in the package. We seem to be over the stimulus check hurdle, though it did come at the cost of a larger check.

The original $908 billion bipartisan stimulus package proposal included $106 billion for state and local governments — a  provision that Republicans would not pass. So that slowed things down. Democrats were able to secure help for cities through funds for transportation, schools and vaccine distribution; it’s just not as much as they originally pushed for. Democrats opposed the liability shield for businesses and universities that may face coronavirus-related lawsuits, so both sides have been forced to compromise.  

[ Read: 11 States Stepping up to Supplement Unemployment Benefits ]

The present solution has been to split the original plan into two smaller bills — allowing them to delay the controversial topics without holding up the majority of the package. The first bill will total $748 billion and include measures like the Paycheck Protection Program and Unemployment benefits.

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Taylor Leamey

Personal Finance Reporter

Taylor Leamey is a personal finance reporter at The Simple Dollar who specializes in personal loans, student loans, mortgages, renters, and financial policy. Her reporting has also been featured at CreditCards.com, Interest.com, Reviews.com, MyMove.com, and elsewhere.

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  • Andrea Perez
    Andrea Perez
    Personal Finance Editor

    Andrea Perez is an editor at The Simple Dollar who leads our news and opinion coverage. She specializes in financial policy, banking, and investing.