One way or another, March 14 was always going to be a fateful day. It’s the day that supplemental federal unemployment payments, instated in response to COVID-19, are due to end. Either the Democrats were going to fail to pass another bill — Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package — and leave unemployed Americans out in cold. Or they weren’t, and Democrats would pass the first test of this era of their control of the White House and both houses of Congress.
All signs point to the Democrats pulling it off, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor yesterday, noting that with the completion of the impeachment trial Democrats are refocusing their efforts on confirming Biden’s various nominees and addressing the COVID crisis.
“Democrats remain hard at work preparing the desperately needed COVID relief bill, which is on track to go to the president’s desk before the March 14 expiration of unemployment insurance benefits,” Schumer said, giving a hard deadline to himself and the rest of the Democrats in Congress.
The COVID relief bill Will Most Likely Pass By March 14
At this point, it’s more likely than not. This deadline has been known since the last time federal unemployment benefits were extended in December. That Schumer waited until now to say, yeah, we’re going to hit the deadline, suggests that he is very confident it’s going to happen. And since he made that statement, the House passed its version of the bill.
But it ain’t over until the votes are counted, and with no room for error (assuming no Republican senators vote yes, Schumer can’t afford to lose a single vote from his side of the aisle) we wouldn’t recommend exhaling until you see the vote total hit the big 5-0 on C-SPAN.
What’s in the COVID relief bill?
Lots of stuff. That unemployment insurance will be extended through September, raised from $300 to $400 weekly, and turned into an auto-renewing system that will save unemployed workers a lot of headaches. There’s also funding for state and local governments, temporary expansions of the earned income and child tax credits, healthcare and vaccine funding, emergency paid leave, and a $15 minimum wage in the current version of the bill. Oh, and another stimulus that maxes out at $1,400.
There will undoubtedly be slight changes in the version the Senate passes that will need to be rectified in the conference committee. The minimum wage hike, for instance, is in danger thanks to Joe Manchin’s stubborn insistence that $15 is too much for West Virginia’s workers. But taking it out (or reducing it to a measly $11) will raise the ire of progressive Democrats. It’s anyone’s guess how that or other conflicts on the Democratic side of the aisle will be resolved.
When will the third stimulus payment go out?
Assuming Biden signs the bill on or close to March 14, it’s likely that direct deposit payments begin to go out the week of March 22, the first checks a week later, and the first prepaid cards the week after that.
This is a pretty optimistic timeline, but given that this will be the third time the IRS has managed distribution of an economic impact payment it’s not unreasonable to think, particularly based on the improvements from the first to the second, that the third round is poised to go even more smoothly.
Another thing to remember is that past payments have been prioritized from lowest to highest income, so if you’re nearer the top of the eligible incomes ($100,000 for an individual or $200,000 for a couple) than the bottom you might wait a bit longer to receive your stimulus.