(CBS Detroit) — The next stimulus check isn’t a foregone conclusion, but everything seems to be falling into place. The $1,400 direct payment would be an important component of the $1.9 trillion economic relief package proposed by President Joe Biden. The American Rescue Plan, in its current form, would also include more unemployment benefits, an improved child tax credit and additional aid for millions of Americans in dire economic straits because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While a third economic relief payment moves closer to bank accounts, the timeline remains uncertain.
The Democrats continue to lay the groundwork for passing a sizeable stimulus package with a nearly party-line vote and a simple majority in the Senate. The House approved a budget resolution last Wednesday. The Senate passed the resolution early Friday morning on a straight party-line vote, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaker. Committees have since turned their attention to the reconciliation bill itself, which will set the stage for the stimulus package to move through the Senate with 51 votes, rather than a veto-proof 60.
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>>READ: Stimulus Check: Will GOP Counteroffer Affect Biden’s $1.9 Trillion Relief Package?
Last week, a group of 10 Senate Republicans put forth a $618 billion counteroffer to the American Rescue Plan. Their package would reduce the direct payment to $1,000 and cap annual earnings for recipients at $40,000, after which the stimulus check amount would incrementally fall to $0. The added federal unemployment benefit would be shorter and less generous. Changes to the child tax credit and many other facets of the Biden package were stripped out entirely.
The Republican Senators met with the President after their proposal went public and came away hopeful. Biden, who promised at the outset of his term to work across party lines, seemed willing to negotiate. But subsequent to their meeting, the President told Democrats that the Senate Republicans’ counterproposal was “not even in the cards.”
In later comments, the President addressed the stimulus payment amount specifically. “I’m not cutting the size of the checks” Biden stressed on Friday. “They will be $1,400, period. That’s what the American people were promised.”
The income-limit portion of the Republican proposal could be incorporated into Biden’s plan, however. The previous two stimulus checks phased out for recipients earning over $75,000 per year ($150,000 for married couples). Lowering the phaseout threshold for a third relief payment to $50,000 is purportedly part of the discussion. That could ensure that more of the money ends up boosting the economy.
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According to a survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the average percentage of the first payment that a household spent on essentials decreased as income increased. The average percentage of the first payment that a household saved increased as income increased. Households heads taking in $40,000 or less annually spent 22.3 percent on essentials and saved 31.2 percent. Household heads taking in over $75,000 annually spent 14.7 percent on essentials and saved 40.8 percent. A survey from last summer projected that the second stimulus check would see that gap between spending and saving widen.
What does all this mean for when Americans might see that third stimulus check? The administration’s goal is to sign the American Rescue Plan into law by March 14. That is also when the current $300 federal unemployment benefit bonus expires. Assuming President Biden is able to sign the relief package on March 14, direct deposits would likely start the week of March 22, with checks beginning to arrive the week of March 29.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems to have an even more aggressive timeline, however. According to comments made on Friday, her aim is to pass the American Rescue Plan in two weeks. The Senate would then be able to pass it on a straight party-line vote. In this scenario, the stimulus package could pass through Congress by February 26 and be signed into law on March 1. Direct deposits would start arriving in bank accounts by March 8, and checks would start being mailed on March 15.
An early March signing doesn’t leave a lot of time. Negotiations aren’t necessarily over, even if last week’s Republican proposal is going nowhere. Some left-leaning Democrats in the House have asked for larger stimulus checks. And centrist Democrats in the Senate, like Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have expressed reservations about the $1.9 trillion price tag. And then the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump starts tomorrow in the Senate. Either timeline could easily be pushed back a week or two for any of the reasons mentioned above or some other reason.
>>READ: Stimulus Check Latest: Will The $1,400 Payment Survive Negotiations On The American Rescue Plan?
The economy shrank by 3.5 percent in 2020, the largest single-year decline since the end of World War II. Weekly unemployment figures remain historically high, with 779,000 people recently applying for unemployment insurance and another 348,000 applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. As of a few weeks ago, approximately 18 million people were receiving some sort of unemployment benefit. That’s one out of every nine workers.
An economic bounceback depends on the widespread distribution of a vaccine. But efforts to inoculate the public have proceeded in fits and starts. Widespread shortages have forced some cities to temporarily close vaccination centers and cancel appointments in recent weeks. A major winter storm blanketing the northeast last week further hindered efforts. Meanwhile, domestic COVID cases have exceeded 27 million, with deaths topping 460,000.
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Originally published February 4 @ 6:06 p.m. ET.