Stimulus check update: What are we really getting?

Column: Will’s Business Corner

Written By: Will Pembroke, Multimedia Show Manager

Within the past year, much debate has surrounded the role of state and federal governments in supplying economic aid to those in need who are suffering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of today, there have been two economic stimulus packages passed, providing $1,200 and $600 individual stimulus checks, respectively. 

Each of the two packages passed so far have also approved billions of dollars in funding to small businesses, primarily by way of Payment Protection Program (PPP) loans. These PPP loans are designed to help businesses keep their workers employed amid revenue losses due to the pandemic. 

With other programs — which came as a part of the first two stimulus packages — set to expire in March, President Joe Biden proposed his own $1.9 trillion stimulus bill. As of this past Saturday, that bill has passed through the House of Representatives and is on its way to the Senate for its deciding vote. Here are a few key things to watch out for as the Senate debates the contents of the bill. 

$15 Minimum Wage: One of the most controversial topics of this proposed bill is that it would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, almost doubling the current rate of $7.25. 

Democrats have long argued that the minimum wage ought to be raised at a federal level. They often cite the need for a livable minimum wage and to keep up with inflation. Meanwhile, most Republicans are opposed to raising the minimum wage to $15, though some are in agreement that it needs to be raised. 

Opponents argue that a wage increase so substantial would cause a massive spike in inflation, doing serious damage to the economy and creating unforeseen levels of unemployment. The odds that the proposed minimum wage will pass through the Senate are unlikely, but not impossible, as lengthy debate is expected on the Senate floor. 

$1,400 Individual Checks: Following the $600 check, which came out in late December, there has been bipartisan support to send out another  round of individual checks. If this were to pass, a total of $2,000 will have been distributed in the winter months. 

There has also been bipartisan support for the new round of checks to target low-income individuals, so it is likely that the qualifications to receive this third check will be stiffened  compared to the previous two stimulus checks. Experts anticipate the final check payments to land somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000. Student Loan Forgiveness: This issue has been a source of contention among Democrats and is expected to continue being a topic of debate in this bill. President Biden announced he is looking to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt, while Senate Democrats are reportedly seeking $50,000 in loan forgiveness. The bill proposed by House Democrats did not include student loan forgiveness, so the discussion over whether or not to include it, and at what figure, will be decided in the Senate. Expect Senate Republicans to push back on this issue or to advocate for a dollar amount in the range of Biden’s proposition.