Congress and the White House have officially moved back the goalposts on the next COVID relief bill.

Angela Lang/CNET

A new stimulus bill containing a second stimulus check is not going to become law in the six remaining days before the Nov. 3 election, that much is clear. But the consequences of delayed COVID relief aid on the economy and struggling Americans concerns politicians and private citizens outside of Congress and the White House, as the last remaining federal benefits reach their expiration date at the end of 2020.

For example, the Federal Reserve has repeatedly urged Congress to pass more aid. Microsoft founder Bill Gates called the stimulus bill “the best opportunity” to help the world access a COVID vaccine, once it’s available. And personal bankruptcies are expected to rise in the absence of stimulus aid as a last-ditch effort for some people to hold onto their homes.

“Our people should get it — the stimulus,” President Donald Trump said Tuesday at a press briefing before hitting the campaign trail. “After the election, we’ll get the best stimulus package you’ve ever seen,” he said, predicting a sweeping Republican victory in the House of Representatives and Senate, and his own win over Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden. 

Biden has published the outline of a stimulus plan of his own, and has largely been leading the polls. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic is a central part of Biden’s campaign. Experts acknowledge that polls are imperfect, and battleground states are of critical importance. (If you voted by mail, here’s how to track your ballot.)

“We are confident that we can get something in the coming weeks,” White House Communications Director Alyssa Farah said Tuesday on Fox & Friends. “We are hoping within weeks. I don’t want to get too ahead of any announcements.” 

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


Although the goalposts for the stimulus package have been pushed back, negotiations could still carry on despite the official pause in congressional activity. It’s also possible legislative work behind the scenes may go on. 

“This week, we continue to put pen to paper,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the bill’s lead Democratic negotiator, said Tuesday in a statement.

The current commitment to the timeline from both sides is significant, since the period between a general election and the inauguration of the next presidential term — known as the lame-duck period — is notoriously a dead zone when it comes to passing new legislation, with the exception of emergency measures, like avoiding the US government shutdown on Dec. 11

Read more: You don’t have to be a US citizen living in American to get a stimulus check

This period from Nov. 4 to Jan. 19 is also seen as the best shot a stimulus package has to pass before Jan. 20, the start of the next presidential term. However, it’s unclear what might happen if the results of the election were to shift the political majority of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the office of President. 

“We’ll come back in November. The question might be, will there be something then?” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby, a Republican from Alabama, on Monday, Bloomberg reported. The Senate is now on recess until after the election. A bill is said to go through this committee before reaching a vote.

Talks have been on-again, off-again for months, as the US continues to rack up coronavirus cases and deaths as a result. Friday saw a new case record as COVID-19 entered a third surge across the US. Several aides to Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive for COVID-19, including his chief of staff, underscoring soon after President Donald Trump’s own hospitalization with the coronavirus that the pandemic is of ongoing concern. Meanwhile, projections of job losses as a result of the virus continue to alarm.

What happens now, and how could it affect Americans and the economy? Here’s what we know today. We update this story with new information when it’s available.


Democrats and Republicans have disagreed on how much relief aid should be included in the stimulus package. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

What will happen after Nov. 3? 

For now, White House and Democratic negotiators seem committed to continue work on a stimulus bill. “Let’s keep working so that we can do it after the election,” Pelosi said Oct. 21

Here are some possible scenarios that could play out:

A White House offer is completed after Nov. 3: An agreement is made and the current House and Senate vote. If Trump signs it into law, stimulus checks and other aid would likely begin to go out within weeks, with certain groups receiving financial help before the end of 2020.

A White House offer is finalized and fails in the Senate: In this situation, the House could vote on a deal after the election, but the current Senate, which is Republican-led, could vote it down, so the bill would not become law. In this case, Congress might try again after the next members of the House of Representatives and Senate convene Jan. 3, 2021.

Some funding could be included in a bill that also refunds the government past Dec 11: It’s possible that one piece of funding, for example a stimulus check, unemployment aid or an extension of the eviction stay, could make it into a bill to keep the government funded past Dec. 11 and avoid a shutdown.

Talks stop until after the election results are in: If talks grind to a halt after the election, it’s likely they’ll restart in some capacity after the inauguration in January. It’s been speculated that if Trump loses the election and if the Senate loses its majority, there will be little incentive for Congress to pass a sweeping package until 2021 during the transition.

To help visualize when a bill could pass, we’ve speculated and come up with five possible dates, both before and after the November election. If a bill does pass that includes a direct payment, here’s how quickly we think the IRS could send a second stimulus check.

When could a stimulus bill or package pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Nov. 9 (Senate back from recess) Nov. 10 (If House returns early from recess) Nov. 12 (Nov. 11 is Veteran’s Day)
Nov. 16 (House back in session) Nov. 17 Nov. 18
Nov. 23 Nov. 24 Nov. 25
Dec. 11 Dec. 12 Dec. 13
Feb. 1, 2021 Feb. 2, 2021 Feb. 3, 2021

What happened to the House’s stimulus bill from early October?

On Oct. 1, the House of Representatives passed a revised Heroes Act that includes a second stimulus check and additional benefits such as enhanced unemployment benefits for tens of millions of Americans. The new House bill, endorsed primarily by Democrats, was not expected to advance through the Republican-controlled Senate, and indeed has not.

According to Pelosi, the vote on the revised Heroes bill was independent of ongoing negotiations with Mnuchin. 

The vote was thought to provide cover for House Democrats as they campaign without a new relief bill, much as the Senate did earlier in September for Republican members with its $650 billion skinny bill. Like the skinny Senate bill, this new House proposal has little chance of advancing in the other chamber.

What do Republicans and Democrats agree on?

Proposals from both sides have included another stimulus payment of up to $1,200 for individuals who meet the requirements, among topics like aid for airlines, enhanced unemployment insurance and extending the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses. Although the Senate’s targeted bills do not include stimulus checks, in the past, Republicans (including those in the Senate) have supported them. Here are more details on what the Senate bill supports compared to the current package under negotiation and the most recent bill passed by the House.

For more information about stimulus checks, here’s how soon you might get your second stimulus check now and what to know about the HEALS, CARES and Heroes stimulus bill proposals that could help inform a final package.

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