The election results are in, but the future of a second stimulus check is still uncertain.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Joe Biden will be the 46th president of the United States, a projection called on Saturday by every major US news organization. While he already has a framework for a stimulus plan — which includes a second stimulus check of up to $1,200 for individuals — it isn’t something Biden could act on until after the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20. Even then, passing the next stimulus bill is up to Congress, with the signature of the sitting president enshrining it as law.

It isn’t clear exactly how the Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump, or senatorial runoffs in Georgia — which could decide if Democrats or Republicans will control the chamber — will affect the path of another stimulus check, but it’s almost guaranteed to have an impact on the on-again, off-again negotiations, and on whether more direct payment is included in the bill or cut out. 

Here are some possible scenarios for the current proposal, a new proposal and if there’s no resolution on a stimulus bill by inauguration. (And here’s every remaining benefit that disappears if no bill is passed before 2021.)

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


Current $1.9 trillion White House package could be off the table

The stimulus package that was under negotiation in the days before the Nov. 3 election is now called into question after Trump’s loss. Trump said on Oct. 27 he’d deliver “the best stimulus package you’ve ever seen” on the condition that he won re-election and Republicans controlled the Senate and House of Representatives.

Read moreNot everyone would qualify for a new stimulus check. What we know

By Friday, the administration already seemed to change its tune.

“Sen. McConnell and for that matter President Trump, and (Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin) and I and the others … we would like to negotiate a package,” White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said, The Chicago Tribune reported. “It would still be a targeted package to specific areas. We’re not interested in two or three trillion dollars.”

This package included a stimulus check for up to $1,200 and some proposed changes to qualifications that could have helped or hurt your chances to get more money in a second round of payments.

Senate could start a new proposal, with or without a stimulus check

The Republican-controlled Senate returns to Washington on Monday to complete its term before the new set of members is sworn in Jan. 3. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week called for a narrow package to pass by the end of 2020, reversing course, having previously said that it should come in 2021.

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

“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 Nov. 4, calling passage of a relief bill “job one.” 

While pundits think McConnell will seek to push through a targeted deal without a stimulus check, the Senate’s HEALS Act from July, which he sought to pass, included a $1,200 direct payment, with additional money given to families with child dependents.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi rejected the idea of a smaller bill on Friday. “That isn’t anything that we should even be looking at,” she said.

Bill of some sort could pass before Dec. 31, 2020

Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate say they’re motivated to pass a bill before the year’s end, but they have deeply divided visions for what that will look like, which could potentially once again end in a stalemate. It’s also possible that at least some aid could squeak through before the end of the year, as part of a Dec. 11 bill to keep the government from shutting down.

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.

Trump would need to sign any bill for it to become law.

Or it may wait until after Jan. 20, 2021 inauguration

If a stimulus package with a stimulus check isn’t agreed on, or passed both chambers and Trump were to veto, the new Congress and White House administration could try again in late January after Biden’s swearing-in as president.

A senatorial run-off in Georgia could potentially give Democrats control over the Senate in addition to the House, creating a scenario in which they might be able to push a larger stimulus package through. However, if Republicans maintain their majority, any proposal would have to receive bipartisan agreement to have a chance to pass. Until that happens, there won’t be a second stimulus check.

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


Top US leaders want to send you another stimulus check.

Angela Lang/CNET

Some qualifications might change or stay the same, if…

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 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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