Here are five important ways the election might affect the promised COVID-19 relief bill and the stimulus payment expected to come with it.
It’s estimated that 160 million people voted in Tuesday’s election and mail-in ballots across the country are still being tallied up. The final results will have a significant impact on issues like the Supreme Court, the shape of the economic recovery and when negotiations to pass a new coronavirus rescue package are able to continue in earnest.
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threw another curveball by reversing a prior statement and throwing his support behind a stimulus deal of some sort or another by the end of 2020 instead of the beginning of 2021.
“We need another rescue package … I think we need to do it and I think we need to do it before the end of the year,” McConnell said, calling passage of a relief bill “job one.”
Still, the final makeup of the House of Representatives and Senate, plus the office of the presidency itself, could heavily influence whether that coronavirus rescue package includes a new stimulus check and a wide range of other funding, including more weekly unemployment benefits.
While McConnell has previously supported another direct payment, he hasn’t recently mentioned it. The White House’s paused $1.9 trillion proposal puts that payment at up to $1,200 for adults who qualify, with additional money for child dependents.
When a new bill comes together
The final outcomes of the election will determine how quickly negotiations toward a stimulus agreement resume. Political divisions are expected to remain deep, with neither party controlling Congress and the presidency. That could prolong the passage of a bill if agreements are slow to develop, as they have been.
If it contains a second stimulus check
McConnell may aim to pass a small bill and block a larger one. If the Senate retains its Republican majority as projected, his party would likely be able to block any larger bills they oppose, including a stimulus check. However, the Senate’s Republican-authored HEALS Act proposal from July did contain a second stimulus check, and the House of Representatives, White House and presidential candidate Joe Biden all support a second check.
When a bill with a stimulus bill gets a vote
Senators, representatives and President Donald Trump have all said they want to pass another stimulus bill after the election. But exactly when after the election is the question. There are two time periods of note. The first is the lame duck session from Nov. 4 to Jan. 3, when the new Congress starts. The other is after the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20.
McConnell hinted Oct. 30 that he wouldn’t bring the Senate to vote on more relief after Jan. 20, but changed his tune the morning after the election.
The timeline for sending a check
Once again, there are two issues to consider when we think of how soon the IRS could send out a second stimulus check. The first is that the makeup of the incoming Congress and presidency could either buoy current leaders or potentially cause them to dig in their heels until the official swearing-in of the new term. That might mean a check would be approved closer to December, or later, in January or February, depending on how negotiations continue post-election.
Then there’s the question of how long it will take for the IRS to mobilize the first wave of stimulus checks, as well as payments for other groups, once a bill allocating more direct payments is approved.
Which qualifications could change or stay the same
Democratic and Republican negotiators both want to make changes to the eligibility requirements from the first stimulus check, but have different ideas about who should and shouldn’t get a stimulus check.
New eligibility rules could get you a bigger or smaller payment
New qualifications might dictate a new total amount of stimulus payment for you. In addition to changes in a bill that would show up in your next direct payment, there may be changes to your life circumstances since last April that could alter the size of a second check, in either direction.