January 18, 2021
New Heroes Act passes with stimulus checks and more unemployment benefits: What now?

Stimulus package negotiations full steam ahead, with a second check: The update now


The clock is running for Congress to reach a deal before breaking for the election.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Will Washington lawmakers pass a comprehensive rescue package or a standalone stimulus check before the election? As of Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Steven Mnuchin had yet to reach an agreement, but also made progress on talks that would extend through the weekend, Politico reported.

“Covid Relief Negotiations are moving along. Go Big!” President Donald Trump tweeted Friday, following a wildly erratic week where Trump vacillated from cancelling talks on a comprehensive stimulus bill to urging them through.

It began Tuesday morning with Trump, currently being treated for COVID-19, calling a halt to talks to pass a comprehensive stimulus package. The same day, he did an about-face and urged Congress to focus on stand-alone rescue bills for airline bailout aid, small businesses and a second stimulus check for $1,200. By the end of Friday, his administration was set to deliver language for a $1.8 trillion proposal, up from $1.6 trillion before Trump and two dozen others in his circle were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Confused yet? We break it all down below and update this story frequently as news develops.

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Why did Trump first stop stimulus talks?

Earlier this week, Pelosi said negotiators would reach a deal on a comprehensive package “one way or another,” despite sticking points. So why did Trump initially pull the plug?

With Election Day just over three weeks away, the reasoning Trump shared included his belief that a deal on a stimulus package wouldn’t be reached and that he wanted the Senate to turn its attention to the nomination of Supreme Court associate justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett, the president’s pick. It’s been suggested that Trump and fellow high-ranking Republicans who tested positive for COVID-19 acquired the coronavirus on Barrett’s nomination day, at events where mask wearing was not universal. 

“The President is, shall we say, in an altered state right now, so I don’t know how to answer for his behavior,” Pelosi said Thursday.

And a tweet from Trump early Tuesday expressed a desire for more aid clearly: “When, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” he tweeted. By Friday, however, efforts to put together an overarching bill had redoubled.

When could a new relief bill pass if talks pick up? 

Pelosi said Tuesday evening that Congress could pick up the thread on another economic rescue package following the election. Trump, however, is urging action now. We’ve suggested five possible dates, based on the new timeline, both before and after the November election. These are speculative only. In the case of a second stimulus check, here’s how quickly we think the IRS could send one.

When could a stand-alone stimulus bill or package pass?

House votes Senate votes President signs
Oct. 26 Oct. 27 Oct. 28
Nov. 9 Nov. 10 Nov. 11
Nov. 16 Nov. 17 Nov. 18
Nov. 23 Nov. 24 Nov. 25
Feb. 1, 2021 Feb. 2, 2021 Feb. 3, 2021

Didn’t the House just pass a new stimulus bill? What’s the story?

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, has little chance of advancing through the Republican-controlled Senate, though.

According to Pelosi, the vote on the revised Heroes bill was independent of ongoing negotiations with Mnuchin. If Pelosi and Mnuchin do agree on a new proposal, a new bill would need to be separately drafted and voted on in both the House and Senate before being signed into law. The total cost of the package and funding allocations like a child tax credit have remained chief sticking points.


Will America pass a new stimulus bill? Both sides agree more aid is necessary.

Angela Lang/CNET

Why did the House vote on Heroes 2.0 if talks were continuing?

The vote is 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.

Where do Democrats and Republicans agree?

Proposals from both sides include another stimulus payment of up to $1,200 for individuals who meet the requirements, among topics like aid for airlines, coronavirus testing and extending the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses.


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

With talks stopped, could the president take executive action?

After talks originally collapsed on Aug. 7, Trump signed an executive order and three memoranda the following day. It’s possible more executive actions could be forthcoming if this final attempt at negotiations fails before the election, though there’s been no development after Trump first suggested his administration might consider another executive action to bypass Congress. 

It’s unclear if Trump would pursue more unilateral action at this point.

Pelosi expressed doubt about Trump’s ability to use executive orders for additional relief funding.

“No. No. He can’t do this by executive order,” she said Oct. 5. “He can’t do the money without the Congress of the United States. The power of the purse begins in the House.”

Trump’s previous COVID-19 relief executive actions address trying to slow evictions, extending unemployment benefits to a lesser degree and deferring payroll taxes until next year.

So what happens now?

The situation is still in flux. For now, we wait to see if there are any developments. Anything could still happen. 

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

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