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The the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools, or HEALS, Act, introduced Monday night by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), includes a provision for a second $1,200 stimulus check. About 159 million Americans received the first economic impact payment according to the IRS, and if the HEALS Act is passed as written in the Senate GOP’s proposal, tens of millions more Americans could be eligible for a check this time around.
That’s because the HEALS Act attempts to rectify a criticism of the first coronavirus stimulus bill. Under the CARES Act, taxpayers only received an extra $500 for their child dependents under 17. Dependents 17 and over were also not eligible to receive their own $1,200 check.
That left out millions of college students and disabled dependents, among others. Now, taxpayers will receive the additional $500 payment for dependents of any age, according to a memo from the Senate Finance Committee. That means at least 26 million more people qualify, according to the Tax Foundation. A couple earning under $150,000 with one dependent in college will receive a check for $2,900, for example.
The memo on the HEALS Act does not mention a cap on how many dependent payments a single household can receive, but the House-passed HEROES Act capped them at three, or an additional $1,500.
Otherwise, the stimulus check follows the same structure as the CARES Act. HEALS Act payments would be based on 2018 or 2019 tax filings, worth up to $1,200 for individuals earning up to $75,000 and $2,400 for couples earning up to $150,000. The top phase-out thresholds are also the same: $99,000 for individuals and $198,000 for couples.
The HEALS Act attempts to fix another flaw of the CARES Act by excluding anyone who died prior to January 1, 2020 from receiving a payment. An estimated 1.1 million checks were sent to dead people during the first round of stimulus payments.
That said, the HEALS Act still restricts the payments to American citizens and residents with a Social Security number, leaving out an estimated 15 million people in immigrant families.
If the bill passes with the $1,200 checks included, it could take weeks or months for Americans to receive the payment.
Republican and White House leaders are struggling to gain internal consensus on an initial stimulus package proposal. During a lunch meeting on Tuesday, Senate Republicans repeatedly clashed with each other as well as with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows over the bill. One lawmaker recounted the lunch as “messy,” and Senator Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) noted that “about 15 different members wanted to make a point, and they made them.”
Republicans balked at various aspects of a potential relief bill including the overall cost, the inclusion of a payroll tax cut, and the exclusion of funding for coronavirus testing. Senators were, however, coalescing around other provisions, including sending a second stimulus check to Americans, although details on the size and scope were still hazy. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is spearheading the legislation, told a news conference on Tuesday, “I’m going to introduce a bill in the next few days that is a starting place, that enjoys fairly significant support among Republican senators – probably not everyone.”
Republicans Now Support A Second Stimulus Check
Republican support for a second stimulus check is a marked departure from their opposition several months ago. In May, Republicans were unified and vocal in arguing against a second payment. However, a worsening economic outlook, coupled with a dramatic rise in coronavirus outbreaks, is the likely impetus of the Republican about-face.
On Tuesday, McConnell officially endorsed another stimulus check for the first time. “We want another round of direct payments – direct payments to help American families keep driving our national comeback,” he said during a press briefing on the Senate floor. There is still some lingering reticence to include another stimulus check. “There was some support and some opposition, both, to the direct payments,” said Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas); however, McConnell’s strong push should be able to corral a majority.
While it is now more likely than not that a second stimulus will be included in the Republican relief proposal, many details still need to be worked out. For example, McConnell did not offer particulars on whether a second payment would be as large as the first round of checks or if the eligibility criteria would differ. Individual filers earning less than $75,000 were eligible to receive a full $1,200 stimulus check when the CARES Act was passed, but McConnell has indicated some interest in reducing the income eligibility for a second stimulus, presumably to keep the overall cost of the new relief bill down.
Leaving some of the details ambiguous will also provide McConnell with additional levers to pull during upcoming negotiations with Democrats.
Republicans Balk At Trump Payroll Tax Cut Demand
Aligning on a second stimulus check may have been the easy part for Republicans. Discussions over the inclusion of a payroll tax cut were much more contentious. In recent days, Trump and administration officials indicated that a payroll tax cut was a red-line issue for the next bill, with Trump telling Chris Wallace during an interview that he “would consider not signing it if we don’t have a payroll tax cut.”
Republicans Resist Payroll Tax Cut
Mnuchin had initially indicated that a payroll tax cut would be included, going so far as to say it was “in the bill on Monday”. However, Senate Republicans steadfastly refused to rally around it, indicating during Tuesday’s briefing that they were not onboard with the idea. “Mnuchin and Meadows were met with so much blowback to the idea at the Senate GOP lunch Tuesday that Mnuchin didn’t try to persuade anyone to reconsider,” according to The Washington Post.
High-ranking Senate Republicans voiced their concerns publicly. “I’m not a fan of that,” said John Thune (R-South Dakota), the second-ranking senator, speaking of a payroll tax cut. “If it’s a choice between doing checks and payroll tax cut, I think it’s pretty clear the checks actually have a more direct benefit to the economy.” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) also spoke against the provision, arguing that the extra money wouldn’t reach voters quickly.
A small group of Senate Republicans does support including a payroll tax cut, mainly because of the perceived ease of implementation. “This doesn’t require any action, it requires less, it requires doing less of something not doing more of something,” said Senator Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota).
White House Walks Back Red-Line
The White House appeared to walk back its insistence on the payroll tax cut after the onslaught of resistance from Senators. “I don’t know that in any negotiation that there are red lines but there are certainly high priorities and it will remain a very high priority for the president,” Meadows said. Mnuchin added that they were still “in discussions” about the payroll tax, although he indicated to reporters that the White House had not dropped the issue.
Notably, McConnell did not mention a payroll tax cut when describing the stimulus package to reporters on Tuesday, indicating the fluidity of the situation. “There are some differences of opinion on the question of the payroll tax cut and whether that’s the best way to go,” he remarked during a press briefing. “And so, we’re still in discussion with the administration on that.”
Republicans will need to reach internal consensus and draft a proposal before negotiations with Democrats can begin in earnest. The intra-party infighting will mean a delay not only in releasing an initial version of the bill, but also in engaging in discussions with Democrats, a process that will be equally, if not more, complex. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) summed it up best, remarking the “only thing I can say is this whole process is the art of compromise.” Let’s hope Congress can compromise quickly.
Further Related Reading:
(CNN)The White House and Senate Republicans managed to spend the opening day of stimulus negotiations at odds not with Democrats, but with one another.
What to watch Tuesday
- Mnuchin and Meadows will then attend the closed-door Senate GOP policy lunch to continue the discussion on the GOP proposal.
- Mnuchin and Meadows will walk across the Capitol to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office to meet with Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
The crux of the Senate GOP disputes
GOP plan: More direct payments and $105 billion for schools
The path forward
Where Democrats sit
Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell changed his tune and said that a second stimulus check “could well be” part of the next coronavirus relief bill. Equally telling was his follow-up remark: “I think the people who have been hit the hardest are people who make about $40,000 a year or less,” he said.
McConnell’s Second Stimulus Check Comment Noteworthy
The tides have been turning on the odds of a second stimulus check since the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act and included an expanded second stimulus payment. Republican opposition has started to wane as President Trump and other members of his administration have increasingly, albeit unevenly, voiced support for a second direct payment. However, this is the first time McConnell has even tepidly acknowledged that direct payments may be included. His comments come as the Senate started a two-week recess and on the heels of record high cases of coronavirus across the U.S. and a reversal of state re-opening plans across several states and counties. While still far from a slam dunk, the fact that the Senate Majority leader is making positive comments is a noteworthy development.
McConnell’s Use Of $40,000 Shouldn’t Be Taken Lightly
McConnell’s comments about how individuals earning less than $40,000 a year have been hit the hardest shouldn’t be overlooked. “Multiple sources say McConnell didn’t just throw out $40,000 as a cut-off haphazardly — consensus within GOP is moving that direction, which would sharply limit eligibility,” tweeted Jeff Stein of The Washington Post. In many ways, it could signal how McConnell will attempt to thread the needle between agreeing to a second direct payment to placate President Trump while keeping the overall cost of the next stimulus bill down to mollify fiscal conservatives feigning concern over the mounting national debt.
The $40,000 figure is also in line with McConnell’s stated goal of making the next round of stimulus more targeted. The notion of more surgical aid may actually find support across the political aisle. “I think the next round we’ve got to be more targeted to those who are really in need. So I hope we can target this a little bit better to those who have been hit hard because of COVID-19,” Senator Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) said of a second stimulus payment.
Those earning under $40,000 were hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Close to 40 percent of Americans earning less than $40,000 annually lost their jobs in March, when the coronavirus brought parts of the economy to a standstill, according to Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Therefore, using the $40,000 as a cutoff would allow Congress to help those were were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.
Preference For $1 Trillion Bill
McConnell told President Trump recently that the next relief bill cannot exceed $1 trillion. While this is in some ways posturing, it does reflect pressure on McConnell from his conservative base to keep the total cost of the next bill in check. There appears to be some consensus that the relief bill will come in between $1 trillion and $2 trillion dollars; more than McConnell’s gauntlet, but less than the $3 trillion HEROES Act passed by the House.
Lower Income Eligibility Will Help Keep Cost Down
By reducing the income eligibility of a second stimulus check, McConnell can reduce the overall cost of the next relief bill. As part of the first round of CARES Act stimulus payments, the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sent out checks to more than 159 million Americans, totaling almost $267 billion. There are also an estimated 35 million payments that have not been issued yet, according to a report from the House Ways and Means Committee.
If an income limit of $40,000 for a second stimulus check was imposed, presumably for single filers, the number of eligible Americans would come down drastically. Kyle Pomerleau, an economist and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, tweeted that using a $40,000 cut-off would result in approximately 80 million households being eligible for payments.
Two Factors That Could Increase Eligibility and Cost
Income Threshold For Married Couples Filing Jointly
Given that the first round of direct payment had higher income eligibility for married filers, it may be safe to assume that if a second payment is included in the next bill, it would follow suit. Pomerleau added that a very rough estimate shows the “IRS has an additional 12 million married couples filing jointly in the $40,000 – $75,000 income range.”
Phase Out For Partial Stimulus Check
Similarly, the first round of payments include an income phase-out. While individual filers earning less than $75,000 would receive a full $1,200 stimulus check, those making more than $75,000 but less than $99,000 were eligible for a partial check. If a similar clause is included for the next round of stimulus payments, that would augment the number of recipients too.
While the total number of eligible payments will vary depending on specific criteria, it will likely be significantly lower than the close to 200 million payments from the first round of stimulus. Perhaps this is the way of achieving consensus among Republicans, Democrats, and the White House?
Further Related Reading:
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.
If you’re not among the tens of millions of Americans who’ve already received their coronavirus stimulus payments, you’re probably asking what’s causing a delay with your check. After all, the federal government authorized the money as part of a package intended to help offset the pandemic’s worsening economic effects and you’d like to spend it. We’ve found some possible barriers that may be holding up your payment with the IRS.
If and when your 2020 relief check does come from the IRS, it’ll arrive either through direct deposit to your bank account (if you set that up before the May 13 deadline) or in the mail (you’ll get a paper check or a mailed prepaid debit card). It’ll be your money to spend, free and clear. The IRS said it’ll step up its payment schedule through the end of June and has already sent more than 150 million checks so far. In addition, a bill for a second round of stimulus checks for up to $1,200 is in its first stages of negotiation, though that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal.
Keep track of the coronavirus pandemic.
The payment process hasn’t always been smooth sailing. CNET readers have relayed situations where the IRS indicated their checks were mailed or deposited weeks ago, with no checks in sight. In another example, they submitted their banking information using the IRS Get My Payment portal in April and still couldn’t see the status of their payment. If you’ve checked the IRS tool and haven’t found the answers you’re looking for, here’s what else might cause a delay.
Stimulus Checks Helpline
You won’t get a stimulus check if you aren’t eligible
Check this first. You’re eligible to receive a stimulus payment if you:
- Are a single US resident and have an adjusted gross income less than $99,000.
- File as the head of a household and earn under $146,500.
- File jointly without children and earn less than $198,000.
- Are the parent of child aged 16 or younger.
The IRS has scheduled your payment for later in the year
While the IRS has sent out 152 million payments as of May 22, it still has more to go. In April, the IRS estimated (PDF) it could take up to 20 weeks to send every payment out and it is prioritizing the payment schedule by sending checks to those with lowest incomes first. Depending on your adjusted gross income, you may have weeks and possibly several months to wait, according to the IRS plan.
The IRS started processing your paper check before you submitted your direct deposit information
If the IRS was already preparing to mail your paper check when you provided your banking information online, you’ll still receive your check in the mail. The IRS said it can typically take up to 14 days to receive the payment in this situation.
Your bank had trouble processing the direct deposit
If your bank couldn’t process the electronic money transfer from the IRS, the payment was returned and the IRS is now mailing your check to the most current address it has on file, either from a 2019 or 2018 tax return or one from the Postal Service.
The IRS still intends to send your payment through the mail
The IRS made a big push to get everyone who was eligible for a check signed up for direct deposit by May 13. The benefit of direct deposit, the IRS said, was you’d get your check quicker than through the mail. Now that the deadline is passed, the IRS said it will start sending paper checks and debit cards to those it doesn’t have banking information for, from the end of May through June.
The banking information the IRS has for you is out of date or no longer valid
The IRS said it’s using banking information from your 2018 or 2019 tax return to send your payment. Some tax preparers, however, set up temporary accounts for their clients to receive their returns, such as to a prepaid debit card. If this is the information the IRS has for you, the agency said the payment will be returned and reprocessed.
If for whatever reason, the banking information the IRS has for you is not valid, the agency says it will mail you your check. The IRS said to check its Get My Payment tool for updates.
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You owe child support
If you are past-due on child support, the IRS said your payment may be reduced or completely deducted. If that happens, the Bureau of the Fiscal Service will send you a notice.
A claimed dependent is not eligible for a payment
Parents who are not married to each other and do not file a joint return cannot both claim a qualifying child as a dependent. The parent who claimed their child on their 2019 return may receive the payment. Likewise, dependent college students do not qualify for a payment.
You need to file a nonfilers form
If you are eligible for a payment but because of low income didn’t need to file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, you may need to use the IRS’ nonfilers tool to give the agency your information. If you think that is you, head to the IRS’ website, check the requirements and then provide some basic information to get your stimulus check.
To assist you with potential problems regarding your payment, the IRS added 3,500 telephone representatives to help navigate common issues. The representatives won’t be able to help with specific problems with your payment, however.
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If you haven’t gotten your pandemic relief payment yet and would like to receive it by direct deposit, make sure the IRS has your bank account information before noon Wednesday.
If you haven’t gotten your pandemic relief payment yet and would like to receive it by direct deposit, make sure the IRS has your bank account information before noon Wednesday.
If you’re still waiting for your pandemic payment from the federal government, and you would like to receive it directly into your bank account, head over to the IRS website by noon on Wednesday.
If the IRS doesn’t have your direct deposit information by that deadline, you’ll still get your payment — but you’ll receive it in the form of a paper check, which might not arrive until June.
Citizens and resident aliens earning less than $75,000 in individual adjusted gross income are generally eligible for a $1,200 relief payment. Individuals earning more may be eligible for a partial payment.
For most people, the payments were automatic and no action was necessary. The IRS has sent payments to some 130 million people already. The new deadline only applies to people who have not received a payment yet and who have not confirmed that the IRS has their bank account information.
“We want people to visit Get My Payment before the noon Wednesday deadline so they can provide their direct deposit information,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said. “Time is running out for a chance to get these payments several weeks earlier through direct deposit.”
If you filed a federal tax return and received a refund via direct deposit — or if you receive other benefits to your account, like Social Security or Supplemental Security Income — the IRS should already have your bank account information. You can use the “Get My Payment” online tool to confirm your bank account is on file and check the status of your payment.
If you are not required to file a federal tax return, you can use this IRS page to request your payment electronically.
Remember, the IRS will not contact you directly for information, and you will never have to provide any money to receive your stimulus check. Any calls, texts or emails asking for information are scams.
The IRS says they have delivered the stimulus checks to many that qualify, however, banks beg to differ.
Americans are reaching out to tax preparers and lining up at their offices around the country to find out what happened to their stimulus checks.
One answer: The IRS sent those missing payouts to an intermediary bank account if a client got an advance on their tax return, tax professionals say.
Clients tipped tax preparers off to the problem when they used Get My Payment, the government’s new stimulus deposit tracking portal, and uncovered that the payments of up to $1,200 for individuals were sent to an account number they didn’t recognize.
Agencies that help people file for government-issued refunds are receiving an influx of calls regarding the one-time payout meant to be disbursed to 80 million Americans this week. While many people received the deposit, other payments may have gotten inadvertently sent to temporary accounts created during the tax filing process.
The IRS said it is moving to provide additional information and resolve any issues as soon as possible.
Where are stimulus checks going?
Natalie Parchment, a tax preparation consultant in the Washington D.C. area, has been inundated with calls and emails from clients wondering what happened to their payout.
“I had to investigate,” Parchment said.
She discovered that the unrecognized digits that people found listed on the portal were linked to refund transfers accounts, often created on behalf of taxpayers who want preparation fees taken out of refunds so they don’t have to pay preparers upfront.
“Those last four digits on the Get My Payment portal match the transfer provider’s information that has been submitted to the IRS,” Parchment said.
After you file your taxes with a tax professional, transfer banks such as MetaBank, Republic Bank and Santa Barbara Tax Product Group set up temporary accounts for taxpayers who want a refund advance or to deduct tax preparation fees from a refund.
That account number and the bank’s routing number are sent off with the tax return to the IRS.
The IRS deposited some stimulus checks into these temporary accounts, according to MetaBank. “The IRS has not explained to us why this error occurred,” MetaBanks said in a statement.
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Why are checks deposited in wrong accounts?
The issue has popped up among filers who have set up a tax advance in previous years when filing tax returns, according to Toby Mathis, a partner and attorney at Anderson Law Group in Las Vegas, Nevada. The IRS is basing stimulus checks off tax returns from 2018 or 2019, whichever is more recent.
A tax advance typically works like this: When a tax preparer does a filer’s return, they can loan them a portion of their refund in advance. The IRS will then send the actual refund to the preparer via a bank account set up in the filer’s name. The loan is repaid from the refund and the remaining portion of the refund is returned to the filer.
Everyone from mom-and-pop tax preparers to big chains like TurboTax, H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt have this option, Mathis said.
The issue is that the account where the stimulus payment was deposited didn’t belong to the taxpayer. It belonged to the service provider.
“The provider’s bank is supposed to refund the $1,200 payment back to IRS in these cases,” says Evan Morgan, tax director at Kaufman Rossin.
Those intermediary accounts tend to only be used for a filer’s refund in previous years, so those accounts likely no longer exist. The IRS hasn’t given out specific guidance yet on how they will reissue stimulus checks if they are deposited in the wrong accounts. But normally if a bank account is closed, a tax refund is rejected and the IRS sends out a paper check to the address that was on the return.
What happens next?
Another possibility is a bank will return those funds if the money lands in the wrong account since the name on the deposit didn’t match the name on the person’s bank account, Mathis explained. If the funds are rejected, the IRS would likely issue a paper check to the last address on file, he said.
“For people who have moved, that could be a big problem,” Mathis says. “People are already having a heck of a time trying to update their information on the IRS website.”
The IRS is expected to start sending paper checks on April 24.
“If a payment is returned to the IRS, the agency will mail a check to the taxpayer,” according to the Santa Barbara Tax Products Group which takes tax preparation fees out of refunds.
Who has been affected?
After people in San Antonio, Texas, complained about the missing checks to Snapback Tax Services, the local agency blamed the IRS for the error.
“The information that many of you are seeing on the IRS website is your account information to MetaBank. They are the bank that processes your tax refunds,” Snapback Tax Services said on Facebook.
In Augusta, Georgia, dozens of people crowded Citi Tax Financial, thinking the tax preparer was responsible for lost checks, according to local media.
A similar event unfolded in Tallahassee, Florida, this week after confused residents stood outside of Galaxy Tax Services with tax papers in hand.
H&R Block, the tax preparation company, said its clients were impacted by the confusion the IRS created.
“We share our clients’ frustration that many of them have not yet received these much-needed payments due to IRS decisions,” the company said in a statement provided to USA TODAY, “We are actively working with the IRS to get stimulus payments sent directly to client accounts.”
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