If theres no second stimulus check in the next relief bill, you might still benefit – CNET

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Several economic support programs will run out by year’s end without help from Congress.


James Martin/CNET

Congress goes back to Washington this week, and with its return to Capitol Hill, a growing number of Democratic and Republican leaders are pushing for a short-term relief package to help families through the “dark winter” of soaring coronavirus cases and continuing economic hardships that President-elect Joe Biden has predicted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that the US could reach a death toll of over 320,000 by mid-December.

One option is for Congress to pass a smaller bill than the one Democrats have backed, one that extends some of the most critical programs set to expire at the end of the year and leaves out a second economic stimulus check. The idea here may be that Congress could return to discussions on a broader package after the Biden administration takes over on Jan. 20.

But after months of wrangling and urging and talking, the Senate and House of Representatives are down to a handful of days to get a deal done before the end of the year. On Friday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer flagged a window in the next two weeks that his chamber will have to work out details on the beleaguered COVID-19 relief bill, specifically Dec. 2 to early in the week of Dec. 7.

But there’s second stimulus payment is no guarantee. (And a payment could bring you less money than before.) Adversaries suggest another direct payment may not be necessary, since a forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine points to a return to work and the kind of spending that drives the economy. Not everyone will get the vaccine at the same time, however, and wider distribution in mid-2021 is still months away.

Earlier this week, a group of 127 economists signed an open letter (PDF) urging a second stimulus check as a fast, fair and effective way to “get families and the economy back on track.” But after months of stimulus check talks, what does it mean if another one doesn’t come? We’ve looked at the other benefits a new stimulus package could bring you, even without another $1,200 per qualified adult. This story is regularly updated with new information.


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Next stimulus checks: What to expect

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A smaller bill could bring more money for federal unemployment aid

The CARES Act in March authorized an additional $600 per week in unemployment money for out-of-work individuals. When that program ran out in July, President Donald Trump signed an executive action that extended payments through the end of the year at $300 extra per week, until Dec. 31 or until the money for each state ran out. With the total number of unemployed workers claiming benefits as high as 20 million, the government reported this month, a renewal of the federal unemployment assistance could directly help millions of people pay for rent, food and other essentials.

Money for small businesses to meet worker payroll

The Payroll Protection Program, also part of the CARES Act, was designed to help keep workers employed by providing forgivable loans to small businesses for the purpose of paying wages. That means people who work for small businesses should be more likely to keep their jobs because their employer can get extra money to help keep workers on the books. 

While recent studies suggest the payroll program was not as effective as it could have been — with many businesses using the loans on nonpayroll expenses and to build up savings, according to a University of Chicago study — both Republicans and Democrats have pushed for renewal of the program targeted at the hardest-hit small businesses.

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Federal support for worker wages is set to run out as Democrats and Republicans continue to disagree.


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Renter protection that stops evictions

The CARES Act included a 120-day moratorium on evicting renters who were late on rent. Trump renewed the moratorium until Dec. 31. With a recent US Census study finding that one in five renters are not caught up on their rent during the pandemic, a lapse in protections could be catastrophic to American households and could be compounded by a predicted increase in personal bankruptcy.

With Congress out till after Thanksgiving and a Dec. 11 deadline to approve a new federal budget, lawmakers will have to act quickly to agree to a short-term fix before the new year.

Until then, here’s what we know about the state of negotiations on another economic rescue bill, what could be holding up an agreement and five benefits going away unless Congress acts before the end of the year.