As the last days of summer come to an end, many are wondering when the next stimulus check will go out, if at all. The politicians in both parties in Washington appear to have dug in for the long haul. While they both say they are willing to compromise on a stimulus package, little compromise is actually taking place. And that raises a key question—can a second stimulus check still go out this month?
Here’s what has to happen before the IRS can start sending out Economic Impact Payments, as they are officially called:
- Democrats and Republicans have to reach agreement on the next stimulus package and draft the final bill
- Both the House and Senate must vote in favor of the bill
- The President must sign the bill
- The Treasury can then start distributing the payments.
A bill can go through a number of additional steps. For example, once a bill is drafted and introduced in the House or Senate, it typically goes through a committee, a subcommittee and even lengthy hearings. In the case of the stimulus package, however, bills have already been introduced, and the Heroes Act has been passed by the House. Given the urgent need for Covid-19 relief, the process would move very quickly.
To understand how long this process might take, let’s work backwards.
How fast can the IRS send out checks?
Once the president signs a stimulus bill into law, the Treasury should be able to start sending out the second stimulus check in about a week. It took the IRS 17 days to start issuing the first payments back in April. Given that the IRS has already done this, however, they should be able to move more quickly. In fact, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he could release 50 million checks a week after a stimulus deal is passed.
How quickly can the President sign the stimulus package?
President Trump can sign a stimulus bill almost immediately. He signed the CARES Act the same day Congress presented it to him. In fact, it took him just a couple of hours.
How quickly can the House and Senate vote on the stimulus bill?
In theory, both the House and Senate could vote to approve a stimulus package as soon as an agreement is reached and the final text of the bill is approved. At this point, both the House and Senate should know that they have the votes to pass the legislation. Otherwise, negotiations would continue. But of course, there are no guarantees.
With the CARES Act, it took two days. A deal was announced on March 25th, and the Senate voted 96-0 to approve the bill later that evening. It wasn’t smooth sailing, however. Some Senators thought the legislation didn’t do enough. Some thought it did too much. Nevertheless, it went through the Senate in a matter of hours. It moved to the House and was passed two days later on March 27th.
We can’t know if the second stimulus package will move as quickly. There are a number of Senate Republicans who have expressed strong concern over the amount of spending that’s being proposed. That being said, once agreement is reached, we’ll assume it gets through both chambers in at most three days.
When will Washington agree on the stimulus package?
This is the big unknown. Negotiations between Democrats and Republicans reached a stalemate on August 7th. One day later, Mr. Trump took executive action on a number of measures, including enhanced unemployment benefits, student loan relief, and a payroll tax holiday. Since then, both sides have said they are willing to compromise, but it doesn’t appear they have resumed negotiations.
Some have reported that little progress will be made this week because White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is “out for the week.” It’s unlikely, however, that Mr. Meadows’ schedule would hold up needed relief to millions of people.
A more likely hurdle is that both Democrats and Republicans may feel that they have the upper hand. Democrats have stood firm on key issues—state and local government funding and unemployment benefits—with little indication of a willingness to compromise. At the same time, Mr. Trump may feel emboldened by the executive actions he recently took.
By my rough estimate, Washington would need to reach agreement in about one week, at the latest, for a second stimulus check to go out by the end of the month. Whether that will happen depends almost entirely on whether and when the parties can reach an agreement on a stimulus package.
How to track the status of the stimulus check?
You can keep track of the lasted developments here: Second Stimulus Check FAQ: All Your Questions Answered in 60 Seconds