The direct payments mandated by the CARES Act in mid-March of 2020 have long since been spent, leaving Americans struggling to survive in a decimated economy to wonder if more desperately needed help might be on the way.
The good news is that Nancy Pelosi and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, the latter speaking on behalf of his COVID-stricken boss, both expressed optimism about a deal as recently as Monday, October 5. Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, the chief negotiators on a potential deal, have been engaged in talks for weeks.
For his part, Trump tweeted “OUR GREAT USA WANTS & NEEDS STIMULUS. WORK TOGETHER AND GET IT DONE. Thank you!” in the midst of his battle with COVID-19. He’s also still down in the polls to Biden, which could also motivate him to do something for American people, right at the buzzer, people who have struggled for months from the pandemic.
The House passed a pared-down version of the HEROES Act, which first passed the body months ago, last week. It includes the payments and a resumption of the $600 per week unemployment benefit. The economy has already seen the chilling effects of the disappearance of the unemployment benefit, suggesting that sending more people money helps them spend it on not just rent and bills, but also groceries and non-essential items, which can help drive the economy.
The Senate remains the biggest obstacle to the passage of a second stimulus, as a small group of hard-liners expressing concern about the deficit and/or insisting on generous protections for industry could prevent a bill from making it to the president’s desk.
There’s also the fact that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has paused votes until October 19 after three GOP senators contracted COVID-19 after attending the event announcing Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, without social distancing or wearing masks. Given the number of Senators who attended the event or have been around one another before the diagnoses became public, the COVID-19 crisis at the White House could still be far from over, which could lead to further delays in nominating Barrett.
So the bottom line is, despite a rare bipartisan commitment to pass some kind of direct stimulus, another round of payments is far from a sure thing. And the prospects of a bill passing before the election are even dimmer.
This story is ongoing.