(CBS Detroit) — A third stimulus check is likely pending. The $1,400 direct payment is a critical part of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic relief package, which aims to ease the economic fallout from COVID and set the economy on better footing. It has support from both Democrats and Republicans and looks destined to end up in the American Rescue Plan’s final version. The broader package also includes higher unemployment benefits, an improved child tax credit, and much more. While a third check seems destined for bank accounts, the specific timeline is still up in the air.
When Could My Stimulus Check Arrive?
The administration remains focused on signing the American Rescue Plan into law by March 14. That is the day when the current $300 federal unemployment benefit bonus expires. Assuming President Biden can 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.READ MORE: Stimulus Check Update: Why Your Next Relief Payment May Not Be $1,400
There’s a good chance that the March 14 target date will slip, however. The House passed the American Rescue Plan early Saturday morning with minimal changes. But the bill faces a rockier road in the Senate when debate starts this week. If the upper chamber passes the relief package with any amendments, it would return to the lower chamber for another vote. Supposing the stimulus package leaves Congress by March 22, it would likely be signed into law on March 23. Direct deposits would start arriving in bank accounts by March 29, and checks would start being mailed on April 5. The timeline could be extended for any number of reasons.
What Could Delay My Stimulus Check?
One possible speedbump for the next stimulus check is the turmoil that has surrounded the $15 minimum wage. The House passed the American Rescue Plan with the increase included. But the Senate’s official parliamentarian recently ruled that the minimum wage hike isn’t related to the budget and therefore can’t be passed using reconciliation, the process that allows bills to proceed with a simple majority. It will have to be reworded or stripped out. A backup plan, whereby large corporations are penalized for paying workers less, also seems to be going nowhere.
On the off chance Democrats find a way to reword the minimum wage provision, Manchin, the party’s most conservative member in the Senate, still only supports an $11 per hour minimum wage. How progressives in the House react to a reduced or — most likely — removed increase is another concern. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York has suggested that the far-left wing pressure the party like its conservative wing in the Senate has. Would they withdraw support, or otherwise delay the process? That remains to be seen.
Senate Democrats have also questioned other aspects of the stimulus package, such as the framework for extended unemployment benefits and the money allocated for states and localities. A concern about who receives stimulus checks has also been raised. The President has been in contact with Senate Democrats to lobby his case.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer expects “…a hearty debate and some late nights.” He also seems resolute in addressing the task at hand.
“But the American people sent us here with a job to do: To help the country through this moment of extraordinary challenge. To end, through action, the greatest health crisis our country has faced in a century. And that’s just what we’re going to do.”
Distributing the third stimulus check could also create delays. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the agency charged with sending out payments, is right in the middle of tax season. While CARES Act checks went out around the same time last year, the tax deadline was pushed from April 15 to July 15. No extension has been announced this year. The IRS will have to handle the dual burden of sending out millions of relief payments while accepting and processing millions of tax returns.READ MORE: Stimulus Check Latest: Parents Could Receive Monthly Payments With Expanded Child Tax Credit
What Could Reduce My Stimulus Check?
The idea of lowering the annual income requirement to receive a stimulus check has gained some steam. In early February, Manchin and Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine proposed an amendment aimed at “targeting economic impact payments to Americans who are suffering from the effects of COVID–19, including provisions to ensure upper-income taxpayers are not eligible.”
The previous two stimulus checks phased out for individuals with an adjusted gross income (AGI) over $75,000 per year and married couples with an AGI over $150,000. (AGI is the total of your wages, interest, dividends, alimony, retirement distributions and other sources of income minus certain deductions, such as student loan interest, alimony payments and retirement contributions.) For every dollar of income over the threshold, the previous two stimulus payments went down by five percent. So the $1,200 payment from the CARES Act shrank to $0 for incomes over $99,000 ($198,000), and the $600 from the second stimulus shrank to $0 for incomes over $87,000 ($174,000).
The Biden administration is open to the idea of lowering the income threshold to $50,000 ($100,000) to better target those who need the money. Assuming the same five percent formula applied to the first two checks, a $1,400 ($2,800) payment would actually be $700 ($1,400) at an annual income of $64,000 ($128,000) and $0 at an annual income of $78,000 ($156,000).
The goal of lowering the income threshold is to ensure that more money gets spent in the broader economy rather than saved. According to a survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the average percentage of the first stimulus payment that a household spent on essentials decreased as income increased. The average percentage of the first stimulus 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. The same dynamic could play out with the third check, should income limits not be reduced.
Why Do We Need Stimulus Checks?
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 approximately 730,000 people initially applying for unemployment insurance in the third week of February. (For reference, a typical pre-pandemic week saw about 250,000 new unemployment applications.) An additional 451,000 sought Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. Another 1 million people received Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, benefits for those whose unemployment aid has otherwise run out. That group now totals 5 million people.
At the start of February, approximately 19 million people were receiving unemployment benefits of one kind or another. That’s one out of every nine workers. While the official unemployment rate is 6.3 percent, the actual rate is probably closer to 10 percent, given all the people who have dropped out of the labor force.
An economic bounceback depends on the widespread distribution of a COVID vaccine. But efforts to inoculate the public have proceeded sluggishly at times. Shortages and winter weather have forced some areas to temporarily close vaccination centers and scale back administering the vaccine in recent weeks. Many who qualify have faced problems in scheduling appointments. Nevertheless, over 50 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
The Food & Drug Administration just authorized Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine. Four million doses shipped on Monday. And Biden’s coronavirus coordinator, Jeff Zients, has stated that the administration has secured enough doses that, by July 31st, there will be enough to vaccinate 300 million Americans. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, also believes vaccination will be open to everyone by July, when demand will no longer outpace supply. But mask-wearing and a general lack of normalcy could continue into 2022. Currently, domestic COVID cases exceed 28 million, while deaths have surpassed 515,000.MORE NEWS: Stimulus Check Update: ‘I Believe We Have A Moral Obligation,’ Says President-Elect Joe Biden
Originally published February 4 @ 6:06 p.m. ET.