Stimulus update: $600 checks begin arriving as Washington debates more relief

By Zlati Meyer

December 30, 2020

That $600 stimulus check from the federal government might already be yours.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Tuesday night that the second round of COVID-19 checks, approved last week as part of a $2.3 trillion spending bill, would be mailed out on Wednesday—and that people who have set up direct deposit with the Internal Revenue Service may have their relief money already.

Democrats have been pushing to increase that sum to $2,000 per person, but the extra cash is looking unlikely as the effort to boost cash relief stalls in the Senate. While President Donald Trump recently joined calls for $2,000 checks, he only added his support after Congress finalized an agreement on the spending bill. Senate Democrats who pushed for a standalone bill were blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The path to a $2,000 check became even murkier this week when Trump appeared to tie his interest in a $2,000 check to his desire to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects social media companies from lawsuits over what users post, and to his demands for a commission to investigate baseless accusations of election fraud.

While several Republican allies have endorsed that approach, it is likely dead on arrival in Congress. Democratic leadership opposes linking the three issues together, and few Republicans appear to have the stomach for increased cash payments.

Still, the federal government could act quickly if Republicans and Democrats are able to resolve their differences. “If additional legislation is enacted to provide for an increased amount, Economic Impact Payments that have been issued will be topped up as quickly as possible,” the IRS website states.

The current round of checks is available to individuals with 2019 adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less, with payments phasing out rapidly above that level. Married couples making up to $150,000 are eligible for $1,200, with additional money available for each qualifying child.