Stimulus update: Treasury department scrambles to get relief checks out by end of week, report says

WASHINGTON — One week after the U.S. treasury chief vowed to get the first in the latest round of direct stimulus payments into the hands of struggling Americans before the close of 2020, the department doubled down Monday on fast-tracking deposits despite delays in releasing the funds.

President Donald Trump signed late Sunday the aid package expected to disburse at least $900 billion in COVID-19 relief funds to American families, six full days after both congressional chambers overwhelmingly approved the bipartisan bill, which also included a catchall $1.4 trillion spending plan to keep the government operational and fund a host of year-end projects.

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A senior official at the Treasury Department confirmed to The Washington Post on Monday that Mnuchin’s original timeline of instigating check disbursement prior to the close of 2020 remains the goal but said that the timing could become fluid.

Prior to signing the legislation into law, Trump had attempted to secure last-minute changes to the bill but relented Sunday after failing to garner the support of his fellow Republicans for some of those changes, including boosting the amount of the direct stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000 per eligible adult, the Post reported.

Per the bipartisan agreement as written, direct payments of $600 per adult and $600 per child will be disbursed, as opposed to the respective $1,200 and $500 payments issued earlier this year.

According to The Wall Street Journal, it took about two weeks for the first batch of payments to hit bank accounts in March and months for others to receive direct payments. Programs authorized under that $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security – or CARES – Act began to expire in July, the Post reported.

The treasury department will be able to move more quickly with this second round of direct payments because of the groundwork laid with the first batch in the spring, but it remains unclear exactly how quickly the funds can be made available due to both the nearly weeklong delay in obtaining executive clearance and Friday being a federal holiday, which interrupts banking operations, the Post reported.

Meanwhile, Trump’s delay in signing the legislation created a potential gap in supplemental unemployment benefits extended to millions of Americans through the CARES Act in the spring.

“There’s tremendous confusion. No one knows when the checks are going to go out. We have not received guidance from the Department of Labor,” Julia Pollak, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter, told the newspaper.

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