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What does the election have to do with stimulus checks? Everything.


Angela Lang/CNET

An estimated 160 million people voted in Tuesday’s election, with mail-in ballots still being counted across the US. Whenever they’re finalized, the results might have a big impact on issues like the Supreme Courtthe shape of economic recovery and the path of negotiations to pass a sorely needed economic relief bill

The final makeup of seats in the House of Representatives and Senate, plus the office of the presidency itself, could heavily influence whether that stimulus package contains a new stimulus check of up to $1,200 for eligible adults and a bonus for their dependents, plus a wide range of other funding, including more weekly unemployment benefits. (Here’s every benefit that dries up Dec. 31 if there’s no more aid.)

Here are six major ways that the results of the election might impact a second stimulus payment, which we detail below. This story was recently updated.

Read moreJoe Biden has a stimulus plan, too

Election results could decide when a new bill comes together

How eager Democratic and Republican negotiators are to reboot talks and hammer out an agreement on a new stimulus proposal could have everything to do with who wins what. Who becomes president and which party takes control of the House of Representatives and the Senate could motivate legislators to either strike a deal soon or wait for next year.

“The motivation level on both sides will depend on how the election comes out,” said Senate Republican Whip John Thune, The Hill reported Oct. 30.

Read moreNobody can take your stimulus check away, right? Not so fast

The majority party could keep or axe the stimulus check

If Democrats win both chambers of Congress plus the White House, a new stimulus package could look very different from one that required bipartisan support. For example, a large package could pass a Democratic-controlled Congress that included a new stimulus check, money for testing and school reopening and the like. Or, with a split Congress, a much narrower bill to bring targeted aid to programs considered critical could make it through before the inauguration, which might mean that a separate stimulus package could potentially come in early 2021. Right now we have to wait and see.


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Election results may decide when a bill with a stimulus payment is voted on

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 said Oct. 30 that he favors working on more relief after Jan. 20. Trump has promised “a tremendous stimulus package immediately after the election,” if Republicans sweep Congress and the presidency. Pelosi has said she wants “a clean slate” if Biden wins the presidential election. The new term of Congress convenes on Jan. 3, which could also change the political makeup of the Senate and the House of Representatives, a shift that could affect whether a bill is supported or opposed.

Read more: Would you use your second check like these people?

The winner might influence 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.

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. Learn more about the five priority groups we identified that helped determine when you got your first payment.

A new stimulus bill could change check qualifications several ways

Democratic and Republican negotiators both want to make changes to the eligibility requirements from the first stimulus check, but have different ideas about what should change.

For example, the Democratic proposals support sending certain undocumented immigrants to the US who pay taxes the same $1,200 stimulus check afforded to US citizens at home and abroad, as well as some people living in US territories. They’d also either broaden the definition of a dependent to include college students and older adults, or else approve of $1,000 per child dependent instead of $500 apiece. There may also be changes to some child support situations.

Republican proposals originated the $1,000 allocation per child dependent.

It’s also possible a new bill could clarify if people who are imprisoned are eligible to receive a stimulus check. The issue is under current legal review.

New eligibility rules may get you a bigger or smaller, payment

New qualifications might dictate a new total amount of stimulus payment for you. We’ve made some calculations to show you how you might be affected. 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. For more details, this is how the IRS determines how much money your particular check would be.

For more information about stimulus checks, here’s what to do if you haven’t received your first payment and how to calculate how much money a second check could bring you.

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