2021 is quickly approaching, and millions of Americans still need help finding work, paying rent, buying groceries, and more during the coronavirus pandemic. After his initial rejection, President Donald Trump finally signed Congress' $908 billion COVID-19 relief package on Sunday, Dec. 27, after holding out for several days to push for higher direct payments to Americans. So, will the next stimulus check be $2,000? Here's what's going on.
One of Trump's sticking points was a desire to increase the direct payments, from the $600 approved by Congress to a full $2,000. In a Dec. 27 press release before signing the bill, Trump explained he wants to see "far less wasteful spending" in the relief package, and "more money going to the American people." The president also pushed to repeal an existing law that protects social media companies from lawsuits over user content, and to investigate alleged voter fraud as part of the bill. The stimulus bill and direct payments are part of a larger $2.3 trillion spending package, with only $908 billion of the package going to costs related to relieving the pandemic's economic fallout. The other $1.4 trillion is allocated to non-COVID spending, which will keep the federal government running until the September 2021 — the end of the fiscal year.
The demand to increase the payment contradicted the stances of Trump's own Republican party, which had rejected larger checks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell resisted a second round of direct payments for months, and previously pushed for a "skinny" $500 billion COVID-19 relief bill with no funding for stimulus checks directly to Americans.
However, Trump's demand to expand the stimulus check delighted Democrats, who largely support increasing direct payments to Americans. On Monday, Dec. 28, the Democrat-led House voted to approve Trump's redlined version of the relief bill, called the CASH Act, which would potentially put an additional $1,400 into the pockets of struggling Americans by increasing stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000. The vote received bipartisan support, with a 275-to-134 motion to move forward.
It remains to be seen if the additional $1,400 will actually materialize. On Dec. 29, McConnell blocked efforts to quickly pass an increase to stimulus payments, but he can still hold a vote in the Republican-led Senate to either approve or reject Trump's redlined version of the relief package if he so chooses. Per The New York Times, McConnell did not firmly reject the increased payments, saying that the Senate would "begin a process" to consider the added funds. If approved, the package would amount to approximately $467 billion in additional costs, according to the Associated Press. On Dec. 28, a senior Treasury official told CNBC that the $600 payments were on schedule to go out as planned starting this week, and if the full $2,000 is ultimately approved the Treasury Department will add to the money already sent out.
"There’s strong support for these $2,000 emergency checks from every corner of the country," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a Dec. 28 statement after the House voted to pass Trump's CASH Act. "Leader McConnell ought to make sure Senate Republicans do not stand in the way of helping to meet the needs of American workers and families who are crying out for help," he added. Currently, Republicans hold a 52-48 majority in the Senate, counting independents who caucus with Democrats. However, the upcoming Georgia Senate runoff elections may prove influential in any potential vote — as Georgia's two seats in Congress remain open until the Jan. 5 election, all four candidates running for the seats have declared they support increasing the payments.
Whether Congress approves an increase in direct payments or not, one thing is clear: Americans need help making ends meet during the seemingly endless COVID-19 pandemic, and they need it sooner rather than later.