If you were hoping for a second stimulus check, the chances are good that you’re going to be very disappointed.
Although the indications are that lawmakers agree more direct financial relief is needed, they’ve been unable to find a compromise to pass legislation and actually provide that relief. And while COVID-19 cases are still spiking in some parts of the country, there are three key reasons a consensus relief package is not likely to get OK’d any time soon.
1. Unemployment has been steadily declining
Despite dire predictions about the various economic impacts of COVID-19, the unemployment rate has actually declined for several months. In fact, in August, the number of payroll jobs grew by another 1.4 million, bringing the unemployment rate down to 8.4%. Unemployment also fell in June and July.
With more people heading back to work every month, the urgency politicians felt in March that prompted them to quickly pass the CARES Act is all but gone.
This doesn’t mean that the economy has recovered, though, and an unemployment rate of 8.4% still isn’t good (it was at this rate during the worst part of the 2008-09 Great Recession). At the moment, there are no signs of a deepening economic crisis that might force a compromise.
2. COVID-19 aid won’t be tied to government funding
The government is set to run out of money at the end of the month (the end of the U.S. fiscal year), which would mean a government shutdown is possible without some form of Congressional action. Lawmakers have, in the past, used the threat of a shutdown as leverage to try to force through their policy priorities, and there was some hope that those who want more coronavirus relief would employ that strategy this time.
However, a deal to avert a shutdown has been reached, and the continuing resolution that will temporarily fund the government at current levels is not going to include COVID-19 aid. Attaching coronavirus relief to a government funding bill was probably the best chance to get something through a divided Congress, and with that opportunity now off the table, things aren’t looking good.
3. Lawmakers are moving on
Although the Republicans in the U.S. Senate put forth a proposal called the HEALS Act that would’ve included a second stimulus payment, it couldn’t get enough votes to pass. Rather than continuing to try to negotiate with Democrats, the GOP attempted to push a “skinny” relief bill through Congress that would’ve addressed some policy priorities — such as helping the unemployed — but didn’t include a second direct payment.
The attempt to pass the “skinny” bill was a sure sign that Republicans have essentially given up on trying to find a compromise. And Democrats blocked their proposal, which needed 60 votes to advance. It’s very unlikely that another bill will come up for a vote at this point with the election so close and lawmakers focused on their campaigns rather than on continuing fruitless negotiations.
Of course, after the election, if either party attains a majority in the House and Senate as well as the Presidency, things could change — a unified government could likely pass a relief bill with only its party’s priorities, and a second stimulus check might very well be included in it.
But unless or until that happens, you should plan on shoring up your finances during the 2020 recession without a second check by bulking up your emergency fund. You should also make sure you’re prepared for another stock market crash and take advantage of existing aid that’s available through federal or state governments.