Trump arrives on Capitol Hill, with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

White House may send out $1,200 checks to adults, $500 to children

Janet Nguyen Mar 19, 2020
Trump arrives on Capitol Hill, with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

After this piece was published, President Trump signed a $2 trillion economic relief package that would give Americans these direct checks. Click here to read the latest updates.

The Senate has approved a bill that would provide $1,200 checks to some Americans and $500 to children.

But there are stipulations: the bill would grant $1,200 to individuals who reported up to $75,000 on their 2018 tax returns or — if they’ve already filed — their 2019 returns. Meanwhile, $2,400 would be sent to couples who filed joint taxes and made up to $150,000. 

Payments will be reduced for individuals and couples making more than those amounts — until they hit a threshold. Financial assistance will not be granted to individuals making more than $99,000 and couples earning more than $198,000.

Varying amounts had been proposed last week. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had said earlier that the White House wanted to send $1,000 checks to Americans, which he said would occur over the span of three weeks. 

Despite his claim, experts say such a plan will likely take longer. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who served on President Bush’s Council of Economic Advisors and is currently president of the American Action Forum, said it would take six weeks at minimum to get a plan like this set up and executed.

“It’s not particularly efficient — people don’t update their records, and there are a lot of checks that will not find their intended recipients,” he told Marketplace.

The government will be able to send these deposits to many Americans, however, because it has your information based on W-2s and tax returns, according to Louise Sheiner, policy director for the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution.

But would undocumented immigrants qualify to receive this money?

Sheiner pointed out that many undocumented Americans do file taxes, using what’s called an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, issued by the IRS. But in 2008, they were denied checks as part of an economic stimulus package.

“This would depend entirely on how the legislation is written,” Sheiner said over email. “We’ll have to wait and see.”

The Trump administration’s plan is part of a more than $1 trillion package to defend the economy against the COVID-19 crisis.

The plan will need to be approved by Congress. While the Senate is controlled by Republicans, Democratic leaders have expressed their disapproval with some of the Trump administration’s proposals, arguing they don’t go far enough.

“A single $1,000 check would help someone pay their landlord in March, but what happens after that?” asked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on Wednesday.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Will the federal government extend the extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

It’s still unclear. Congress and President Donald Trump are deciding whether to extend the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits workers are getting because of the pandemic. Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia believes the program should not be extended, and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the additional money is disincentivizing some workers from returning to their jobs. Democrats want to keep providing the money until January.

As states lift restrictions, are people going back to stores and restaurants?

States have relaxed their restrictions, and many of us have relaxed, too. Some people have started to make exceptions for visiting restaurants, if only for outdoor dining. Some are only going to places they trust are being extra cautious. But no one we’ve talked to has really gone back to normal. People just aren’t quite there yet.

Will surges in COVID-19 cases mean a return to lockdowns?

In many areas where businesses are reopening, cases of COVID-19 are trending upwards, causing some to ask if the lockdowns were lifted too soon, and if residents and businesses might have to go through it all again. So, how likely is another lockdown, of some sort? The answer depends on who you ask. Many local officials are now bullish about keeping businesses open to salvage their economies. Health experts, though, are concerned.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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