Coronavirus and Your Money

Third Stimulus Check Update: When Could We Get Another Stimulus Check?

It's clear that President-elect Joe Biden and others in Congress are going to push for a third-round of stimulus checks, but it might be a while before we get them.

Second-round stimulus payments are still being distributed, but that's not stopping people from wondering when they'll get a third stimulus check. (Notice that I said "when" – not "if" – because a third round of stimulus checks almost seems like a done deal now that the Democrats will soon control the House, the Senate, and the presidency.)

President-elect Joe Biden will take the oath of office on January 20, but Americans shouldn't necessarily expect another payment right after the inauguration. Another round of stimulus checks won't magically appear just because Biden is president. Even though Biden said $2,00 checks would "go out the door immediately" if Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock beat incumbent Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in the January 5 Georgia runoff elections – which they did – it's not that simple.

There are a number of factors that will determine the timing of a third stimulus check. Will they be included in a stand-alone bill or combined with other stimulus measures? Where will stimulus checks fall on the new president's priority list? Will impeachment proceedings slow things down? These are some of the questions that need to be answered before the timetable for a third stimulus check can be established.

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Stand-Alone Bill vs. Large Stimulus Package

Perhaps the quickest way to get a third stimulus check passed is for Congress to pass a stand-alone bill – in other words, a bill that is only about stimulus checks. We came pretty close to a third payment after a stand-alone bill – the CASH Act – was passed by the House of Representatives in December. That bill would have added a $1,400 stimulus check on top of the $600 second-round payments going out now (for a total of $2,000). However, Republicans blocked a vote on the CASH Act in the Senate.

But once the two new Democratic senators from Georgia are sworn in, Democrats will control floor votes in the Senate. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who will be the new Senate Majority Leader, pushed hard for the CASH Act and will to do so again for a new stimulus check bill. And he wants to move fast. "One of the first things that I want to do when our new senators are seated is deliver the $2,000 checks to the American families," Schumer said. With a stand-alone bill, that could happen relatively quickly – perhaps within a week. The IRS could then start sending out new payments in a matter of days (as they did with the second round of stimulus checks). That would potentially put third-round stimulus money in peoples' pockets in early February.

President-elect Biden may have other plans, though. He wants to include a third round of stimulus checks in a multi-trillion-dollar economic relief package that would also provide money for vaccine distribution, opening schools, state and local government, enhanced unemployment benefits, student loan relief, and much more. If his plan is to combine all these relief measures into a single bill (remember, the Democrats insisted on a single, comprehensive bill for the second relief package), it will likely take longer to get through Congress – especially since the Democrats majority is the Senate will be razor thin (a 50-50 split, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote).

Just one Democratic defector could gum up the works on a comprehensive bill when the new Senate is seated. In fact, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has already thrown some shade on the idea of more stimulus checks if they're not "targeted" and only sent to people who need them. Other Democratic senators would no doubt have other objections to the contents of a large bill (in many cases, arguing that not enough relief money is being proposed). With so much money involved and so many different programs, it could take weeks of negotiations to get enough senators on board. A few Republican votes could be needed too, which could take some time to arrange. Under this scenario, delivery of third-round stimulus checks could easily be delayed until late February or March – or, perhaps, later.

Other Reasons for Delay

Getting the virus under control will be President-elect Biden's number one priority once he's in office. While helping Americans who are hurting financially because of the pandemic is important, there will likely be other COVID-related health measures he'll want to handle first. If that means taking the focus off economic relief – and off stimulus checks in particular – then that could delay third-round payments.

Congress will have a lot on its plate, too. Democrats want bold change quickly on several fronts. But their agenda could be held up if the House moves forward with impeachment proceedings against President Trump, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has threatened. Because there is only a short time left before Biden is inaugurated, the House will have to make impeachment one of its highest priorities if they decide to go down that path. Time spent on impeachment means time away from economic relief – and, therefore, away from stimulus checks.

Some Democrats have suggested moving forward with impeachment in the House quickly, but then waiting a few months to send articles of impeachment to the Senate for consideration. That tactic would minimize delay on economic relief and other priorities by allowing the Senate to take care of other business before tackling the thorny issue of impeachment.

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