• The latest coronavirus stimulus bill update out of Congress is that the whole thing is on pause for now, having collapsed as talks disintegrated between the two parties over what the next stimulus bill should include.
  • Among the ways that a new stimulus bill will directly impact average Americans is with its inclusion of funding for a new wave of stimulus checks.
  • The bill could also provide funding for an extension of unemployment aid.

One of the hallmarks of news coverage surrounding the latest coronavirus stimulus bill update from one day to the next is the politics that dictates each iteration of what happens with the bill. The news cycle might be dominated by a new comment from President Trump, or speculation about this or that congressman, or predictions about how support is faring within the two major parties. Given enough time, that kind of coverage can eventually pile up enough to make the news feel like a thing way over there, separate from you and from everyday life — something that’s for politicians and national figures, that ordinary people can’t touch. After all, day in and day out we see everyone from the US Treasury Secretary to party leaders in the House and Senate frequently on TV talking about what will happen next with a stimulus bill, which doesn’t exactly give the whole thing an “of the people” feel.

Don’t be fooled, though. Of all the drama, a lot of it meaningless, that consumes the nation’s capital, the big question mark around a new coronavirus stimulus package is one occasion where whatever transpires will have an immediate, direct impact on your life — no matter what happens, either way.

First, here’s a sense of the divide between both parties when it comes to restarting talks that devolved into a stalemate over a new stimulus bill in the Senate. “Republicans must get back to the negotiating table!” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted on Monday.

The next day, in an interview with Fox News, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell countered: “We can’t make a deal without the Democrats. And I think it’s time for everybody to get back to the table and let’s get a deal.”

The plan was for the Senate to try and agree on a coronavirus stimulus package, which would include funding for a new wave of $1,200 checks to be sent out to most Americans, a week ago now. Once those talks dissolved, President Trump signed a flurry of orders to try and use presidential authority to tackle some of the components that would have been in the bill, such as extending unemployment aid, but it’s been an imperfect solution, to say the least.

The stalled HEALS Act was an ambitious piece of legislation, encompassing myriad benefits all at once. Things like an extension of unemployment aid, new stimulus checks, small business provisions like tax credits for retaining workers, funding for coronavirus testing, and much more. Let’s take a closer look at two of the most impactful provisions in the bill that would provide an immediate benefit to most people.

Stimulus checks

Details: This is the piece of the coronavirus relief legislation most people have heard about and are likely the most interested in. That’s because, for one thing, it’s pretty simple to understand. The federal government would send out checks of at least $1,200 to most Americans, either in the mail or via direct deposit into a bank account.

Stimulus checks aren’t taxable by the IRS, and you can spend the money on whatever you want. The idea behind them is that this would be an easy way to juice the economy — by giving people money which they would then hopefully go out and spend, though the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has been so painful that many people are just as likely to use the money to pay bills or will simply tuck the money away in the bank. Back at the end of March, Congress passed an earlier coronavirus stimulus package that included funding to support checks that were sent out to more than 160 million Americans. NOTE: Because the HEALS Act is still languishing in the Senate, there is no official word yet on when or if new stimulus checks will be approved and sent out. It’s also worth pointing out that Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has chosen a running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, who is an advocate for approving a massive amount of new stimulus check funding.

An extension of unemployment aid

Details: Tens of millions of Americans filed for new unemployment benefits as a result of being thrown out of work in the wake of the coronavirus, which destroyed customer demand for businesses across so many industries.

The previous stimulus bill, March’s CARES Act, included an extra $600/week in unemployment aid, but that funding expired at the end of July. On a monthly basis, that wiped away an extra $2,400 per month that millions of Americans were getting. This is one of the issues that killed talks over the new Senate bill for now, because Democrats support a continuation of the $600/week in aid, while Republicans think that’s too much and want it reduced. Of course, that’s a stance with optics that don’t necessarily look great during an election year, so it will be interesting to see if the GOP eventually caves on this point.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.