Republican lawmakers want to send another round of stimulus checks to American households to help them weather the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The checks would be similar in amount to the first round, but not as generous as the package proposed by Democrats in May.
Details about a potential second round of checks emerged on Monday when Senate Republicans outlined their fourth phase of federal coronavirus response efforts, which would include other stimulus measures, such as enhanced unemployment benefits.
But the Republican proposal — called the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools, or HEALS, Act — provides less money for children than would a competing stimulus bill from Democrats, which was approved by the House in May.
Nevertheless, the Republican stimulus package would provide households with almost identical benefits to the first round of checks, which were issued through the bi-partisan CARES Act beginning in April after its passage in March. Those checks helped buoy finances for more than 160 million households, with families paying bills or socking away money for a future emergency.
Almost half of all Americans have reported the loss of income from March through early July, according to Census data, underscoring the financial stress that many households are experiencing during the pandemic.
Another massive round of stimulus checks could even help the moribund economy rebound this fall, said Goldman Sachs analysts in a client note earlier this month.
"We expect the bulk of these payments to reach consumers in late August, which should boost consumption in September in particular," the Goldman analysts noted. "It is well documented that the $1,200 stimulus payments paid out in early Q2 had noticeable effects on consumer spending, especially for lower-income households."
Here's how the GOP proposal for stimulus checks would work:
Answer: Primarily through its treatment of dependents.
Under the CARES Act, which authorized the first stimulus checks, children 17 or older were excluded from the $500 payments. That meant that many high school juniors and seniors received nothing.
The CARES Act also excluded "adult dependents" from the $500, which meant that millions of college students and adults with disabilities who are claimed as dependents didn't qualify for stimulus payments.
But the Republican proposal makes it clear that college students and other adult dependents would be eligible for the payments in a second round.
"Unlike under the CARES Act, where the additional $500 was limited to taxpayers with a dependent child under 17, the additional $500 will now be provided to taxpayers with dependents of any age," said a summary of the proposal released Monday by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican.
The Democrats' rival proposal, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES, Act, is more generous than the GOP proposal.
The Democrats would provide $1,200 per household member — including dependents. In other words, instead of $500 per child that families received in the first round of checks, and which is what the Republicans are proposing for the second round, families would receive $1,200 per child.
Here's how that would differ for a family of married parents and two children with income below $150,000.
It also appears that fewer immigrants would receive checks under the Republicans' bill versus the Democrats' bill, since the latter proposes sending money to people who have a "taxpayer identification number" — a number used by immigrants to pay taxes — rather than a Social Security number. Both the first round of checks and the Republicans' latest proposal would require recipients to have a Social Security number.
If you want to check how your family would fare under the two proposals, it can be worthwhile to check stimulus calculators from Omni Calculator.
Here's the calculator for the Republican bill.
And here's the calculator for the Democrat's bill.
Lawmakers and analysts alike say the Republican proposal is likely to change, given the differences between the GOP bill and what the Democrats proposed in their May bill.
"This legislation serves as a starting point for bipartisan negotiations," Grassley said in a statement on Monday.
Even though the stimulus check proposals aren't all that different, the Democrats and Republicans are far apart on other issues, such as extra unemployment aid, with the Republicans proposing major cuts to the $600 in extra federal jobless benefits that had been paid through this month.
The Republican plan "should be viewed primarily as an opening bid in negotiations, and not as a framework for a final bill," wrote Height Securities analysts in a research note. "There is little overlap between them."
With negotiations now beginning between Democrats and Republicans, analysts expect a final stimulus package to be passed in August.
It's possible that checks could arrive later in August, especially as the Treasury and IRS have already sent about 160 million stimulus checks in the first round and presumably have their systems set up to quickly send out a second round of checks.