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


Angela Lang/CNET

It’s estimated that 160 million people voted in Tuesday’s election and mail-in ballots across the country are still being tallied up. The final results will have a significant impact on issues like the Supreme Courtthe shape of the economic recovery and when negotiations to pass a new coronavirus rescue package are able to continue in earnest.

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threw another curveball by reversing a prior statement and throwing his support behind a stimulus deal of some sort or another by the end of 2020 instead of the beginning of 2021. 

“We need another rescue package … I think we need to do it and I think we need to do it before the end of the year,” McConnell said, calling passage of a relief bill “job one.”

Still, the final makeup of the House of Representatives and Senate, plus the office of the presidency itself, could heavily influence whether that coronavirus rescue package includes a new stimulus check and 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.)

While McConnell has previously supported another direct payment, he hasn’t recently mentioned it. The White House’s paused $1.9 trillion proposal puts that payment at up to $1,200 for adults who qualify, with additional money for child dependents.

Below, we detail the six major ways that the results of the election could affect the approval of a second stimulus payment. We update this story regularly with new information.

Read more: Not everyone would qualify for a new stimulus check. What we know

When a new bill comes together

The final outcomes of the election will determine how quickly negotiations toward a stimulus agreement resume. Political divisions are expected to remain deep, with neither party controlling Congress and the presidency. That could prolong the passage of a bill if agreements are slow to develop, as they have been. 

It may also be that a much narrower bill to bring targeted aid to programs considered critical could make it through before the inauguration, with a different stimulus package potentially coming in early 2021. Right now we have to continue to wait and see.

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

If it contains a second stimulus check

McConnell may aim to pass a small bill and block a larger one. If the Senate retains its Republican majority as projected, his party would likely be able to block any larger bills they oppose, including a stimulus check. However, the Senate’s Republican-authored HEALS Act proposal from July did contain a second stimulus check, and the House of Representatives, White House and presidential candidate Joe Biden all support a second check.


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When a bill with a stimulus bill gets a vote

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 hinted Oct. 30 that he wouldn’t bring the Senate to vote on more relief after Jan. 20, but changed his tune the morning after the election.

“As I’ve said repeatedly in the last few months, we need another rescue package,” McConnell said, according to CNBC. “Hopefully, the partisan passions that prevented us from doing another rescue package will subside with the election. And I think we need to do it and I think we need to do it before the end of the year.”

As Senate leader, McConnell decides when to bring legislation to a vote. His new statement may signal one less hurdle to pass a bill, but another stimulus check still isn’t guaranteed to be part of it.

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

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, depending on how negotiations continue post-election.

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.

Which qualifications could change or stay the same

Democratic and Republican negotiators both want to make changes to the eligibility requirements from the first stimulus check, but have different ideas about who should and shouldn’t get a stimulus check.

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 could 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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