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Second stimulus check update: Here’s the latest as the HEROES Act collects dust

Second stimulus check update: Here’s the latest as the HEROES Act collects dust
[Photo: NeONBRAND/Unsplash]

As the country continues to reel from a coronavirus pandemic that is, sadly, still growing, Americans generally support the idea of direct payments to individual taxpayers as a form of relief.

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It’s been almost three months since the federal government passed the CARES Act, which authorized the first round of stimulus checks from the IRS. And even though many recipients quickly spent those funds on basic necessities, Congress has dragged its feet on passing a second round.

The HEROES Act—a massive $3 trillion relief package that would have authorized future stimulus checks to Americans—passed the House five weeks ago, but it never had much chance of surviving in its current form. Republicans in the Senate referred to it as a “liberal wish list,” and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he wants to wait and see how earlier COVID-19 relief packages are playing out before voting on the next one.   

Well, Americans are still waiting, even as one of the critical items in the CARES Act—the additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits—is due to expire next month.

So what’s happening with future stimulus payments? Yesterday, we finally received a hint of an update when Larry Kudlow, economic advisor to the White House, told Fox Business that lawmakers are considering a more targeted approach that would focus specifically on Americans with lower incomes. “Probably, we would want to target those folks who lost their jobs and are most in need,” he said in the interview.

There is some research to suggest that a targeted approach could have a more stimulating effect, so to speak. An ongoing study at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University found that Americans with less money in their bank accounts spent their stimulus payments quickly, while those with more money tended to sock it away.   

Earlier this week, President Trump also indicated that he was open to the idea of a second stimulus package, but he was evasive and vague when pressed for specifics. (That hasn’t stopped the Trump campaign from using the sound bite in a promotional tweet.)

Meanwhile, top Democrats this week are still calling for McConnell to bring the HEROES Act to the floor for a vote. We won’t hold our breath.

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