Committees in the U.S. House of Representatives continue to work on a COVID-19 relief package that Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she hopes will be completed by the end of the month.
“We hope to finish our markups in committee this week and then send it (the stimulus bill) to the budget committee next week for them to work their will on it, then to the rules committee, and then to the floor, and we hope to have this all done by the end of February,” Pelosi said last week.
The timing of the checks have left some anxious to see some more help from the government as other aid programs are set to time out within weeks.
If Pelosi is correct on the timing of the bill leaving the House, individuals who earn 75,000 and couples earning up to $150,000 could be seeing a stimulus check by the end of March or early April.
If the House votes on the bill by the end of February – about two weeks – and sends it to the Senate by the first week of March, the bill could then move to President Joe Biden’s desk within days.
The process of passing the $1.9 trillion bill out of the U.S. Senate will be a speedy one by Senate standards since Democrats evoked a budget reconciliation measure which would allow Democrats to move the bill along without Republican support. It would take a simple majority vote to pass the bill, instead of 60 votes normally needed for such legislation to pass the upper chamber.
Once Biden receives the bill and it is signed, the Internal Revenue Service will begin processing and sending out the $1,400 checks through direct deposit into checking accounts and then by mailing out paper checks and debit cards.
It will take only days to get the direct deposit money into the accounts of millions of Americans who, at that point, will have seen the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic which has taken nearly half a million lives in the United States.
It’s estimated that those payments will be coming by mid- to late March or early April.
Congressional leaders say they hope to get the package ready for Biden’s signature before March 14 when federal unemployment benefits run out. The stimulus plan will extend unemployment benefits through Aug. 29, and boost the payment to $400 from the $300 it sits at currently.
Nearly 800,000 people applied for jobless benefits in the week ending Feb. 6. That number was slightly lower than the previous week, according to the Labor Department.
Also expected to be included in the bill is money to help schools reopen, funding for vaccine distribution and $35 billion to help local governments boost small businesses.
Because of the reconciliation measure, the bill must be focused on legislation specifically aimed at stimulating the economy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The House is expected to include legislation that would increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. However, some say an increase in the minimum wage has nothing to do with stimulus relief and should not be included in a reconciliation bill.
It will be up to the Senate parliamentarian to determine whether an increase in the minimum wage can be included in the stimulus bill under the rules of a reconciliation bill.
A group of 10 Republicans met with Biden earlier in the month, calling for a more targeted approach to the next stimulus bill.
The GOP group proposed sending out $1,000 checks for adults and $500 for children to individuals making $40,000 a year or more and married couples with a joint annual income up to $80,000.