Several economic support programs will run out by year’s end without help from Congress. 

James Martin/CNET

Sometime this week, Republican and Democratic negotiators are expected to once again roll up their sleeves and wrangle a stimulus package. Negotiations have already dragged on for six months, mired by deep partisan divisions. How successful they’ll be as 2020 winds down is anyone’s guess.

The pressing need to deliver more aid and the frustrations that another COVID-19 relief bill still might not happen, has alarmed US leaders and health experts alike as the country barrels toward a “dark winter” of surging coronavirus cases and impending economic hardship. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has warned that the US could reach a death toll of over 320,000 by mid-December.

In an effort to get something done, a growing number of Democratic and Republican lawmakers are pushing for Congress to pass a smaller bill than the one Democrats have backed since May, which could extend some of the most critical programs set to expire at the end of the year. A scaled-back, short-term aid package could leave out the popular second economic stimulus check. After President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20, his administration could then seek a larger, follow-up bill.

For months, Democratic leaders have rejected the idea of smaller, targeted bill — something House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has referred to as half a loaf —  but with the the Senate and House of Representatives meeting for just a handful of days before the end of the year, a smaller bill may be the only path forward to broker a deal before the end of the year.

“We need to do this now,” said Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican from Missouri, on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “We need to continue the funding for the vaccine, the delivery of the vaccine… Direct money to struggling families would be helpful and some of extension of unemployment.”

But a second stimulus check worth up to $1,200 per person might not make the cut. (And a payment could bring you less money than before.) Those arguing against it suggest another direct payment may not be necessary in light of a forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine that signals an eventual return to work and the kind of spending that drives the economy. However, very few people will get the vaccine as soon as it’s ready and wider distribution in mid-2021 is still months away.

After months of fruitless debate, what does it mean if another stimulus check doesn’t come? We’ve looked at the other benefits a new stimulus package could bring you, even without a $1,200 per qualified adult. This story is regularly updated with new information.

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect



A slimmer bill could still boost weekly federal unemployment checks

The CARES Act in March authorized an additional $600 per week in unemployment money for out-of-work individuals. When that program ran out in July, President Donald Trump signed an executive action that extended payments through the end of the year at $300 extra per week, until Dec. 31 or until the money for each state ran out. With the total number of unemployed workers claiming benefits as high as 20 million, the government reported this month, a renewal of the federal unemployment assistance could directly help millions of people pay for rent, food and other essentials.

Small businesses could get funding to pay worker wages

The Payroll Protection Program, also part of the CARES Act, was designed to help keep workers employed by providing forgivable loans to small businesses for the purpose of paying wages. That means people who work for small businesses should be more likely to keep their jobs because their employer can get extra money to help keep workers on the books.

While recent studies suggest the payroll program was not as effective as it could have been — with many businesses using the loans on nonpayroll expenses and to build up savings, according to a University of Chicago study — both Republicans and Democrats have pushed for renewal of the program targeted at the hardest-hit small businesses.

Federal support for worker wages is set to run out as Democrats and Republicans continue to clash on stimulus. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Renter protections might be renewed to halt evictions

One in five renters are not caught up on their rent during the pandemic, a Nov. 20 US Census study found, making a lapse in protections potentially catastrophic to American households. Up to 19 million people could lose their homes if eviction protections aren’t renewed. More Americans could declare personal bankruptcy.

The CARES Act included a 120-day moratorium on evicting renters who were late on rent. Trump renewed the moratorium until Dec. 31. With a Dec. 11 deadline to approve a new federal budget, lawmakers will have to act quickly to agree to a short-term fix before the new year.

Until then, here’s what we know about the state of negotiations on another economic rescue bill, what could be holding up an agreement and five benefits going away unless Congress acts before the end of the year.

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