Here’s Everything You Need to Know About the Elusive Second (and Potential Third) Round of COVID-19 Relief Stimulus Checks

At a news conference on July 24, 2020, in Washington, D.C., Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) looks on as U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks about the importance of extending CARES Act unemployment benefits. Credit: Michael A. McCoy/

Updated | January 19: Following months of ongoing relief legislation negotiations between House and Senate Democrats and Republicans — and while Congress remained unable to broker a compromise even in the face of multiple big-budget proposals — a second stimulus check has been authorized and is now being disbursed. Another potential package with stimulus payments may still be on the horizon, but this won't see approval until after President Biden takes office.

On March 27, federal lawmakers enacted a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package, known as the CARES Act, in order to help Americans navigate financial hardships in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Among its many benefits, the act increased federal unemployment to $600 a week and provided many Americans with relief checks — one-time payments totaling up to $1,200 per individual who reported an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less in 2019. While the one-time $1,200 relief check certainly helped, millions of unemployed Americans felt (and still feel) that it didn’t go far enough in mitigating the financial burdens caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the months following the CARES Act's passing, Congress continually failed to broker and distribute a second relief package with stimulus checks to assist Americans in weathering the struggles the COVID-19 crisis has caused. Multiple proposals looked promising but ultimately didn't pass. After back-and-forth negotiations failed to result in an agreement for almost eight months, Congress finally approved the Consolidated Appropriations Act, a second relief bill — one that included economic impact payments, the IRS's term for stimulus money — just a few days before Christmas of 2020. Although the CARES Act's relief checks paid out a more generous $1,200, the second package's stimulus checks ended up paying out $600 to eligible Americans, despite whispers of a last-minute bid to push the amount to $2,000 per individual.

Now, amid confusion about the amounts of the $600 stimulus payments — more on that below — President Biden is reportedly putting together a multi-trillion-dollar stimulus package that would "boost stimulus payments for Americans to $2,000, extend unemployment insurance and send billions of dollars in aid to city and state governments," reports The Washington Post. Although this third round of checks won't take shape until after Biden takes office on January 20, it appears that even more relief may be on the horizon without another eight-month wait.

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