The Second Stimulus Package: What is it?

Key Questions to Consider (5 – min read)

  1. Why push a second stimulus package?
  2. How is the second stimulus package different from the first one?
  3. How has the package fallen short of expectations?
  4. What do Republicans, Democrats, and the President think about the package?

1: Why push a second stimulus package?

Before answering this question, it is important to determine what exactly a stimulus package is. A stimulus package is an effort by the US government to stimulate the US economy during a recession. One of the main aspects of these packages, the stimulus checks, are given to the citizens of the United States in need of the most economic help, who usually tend to be members of both the working class and the unemployed. Additionally, the government uses stimulus payments to help businesses in struggling industries as well. 

The first stimulus package, worth a record-setting $2.2 trillion, was a little different than previous packages since it was in response to a widespread disease rather than an economically-related problem. For this reason, the federal government’s response was different than it has been in the past in that they needed to give rescue funds to halted industries and to businesses that can help combat the spread of COVID-19. For example, the first stimulus bill gave some funds to America’s suffering aviation industry, but it also gave to research & development in pharmaceutical companies and to hospitals. 

However, even $2.2 trillion was not enough to slow coronavirus cases and revitalize the US economy, so there was support for a second stimulus package as early as April in order to further help struggling American businesses and citizens.

The Capitol, where Congress members meet to debate bills
US House of Representatives

2: How is the second stimulus package different from the first one?

The second stimulus package, worth $900 billion, passed through Congress with bipartisan support on December 21st. It covers most of what the first stimulus package covered but, due to Republican pressures to keep the bill below $1 trillion, in smaller amounts than before. The most notable changes are listed below:

  • Reduced unemployment benefits: The first stimulus package provided the unemployed with $600 a week on top of state unemployment benefits, and lawmakers agreed to reduce that amount in the new bill because many laid-off blue-collar workers are refusing to return to work because they make more money in state and federal unemployment benefits than when they are working. The initial amount of $600 a week was reduced to $300 a week and for a shorter duration than before. 
  • Schools: Since lawmakers are now better informed of the pandemic’s dire effect on K-12 schools and colleges, they increased their funds to schools drastically, from $30 billion in the first stimulus package to $92 billion in the second. 
  • Vaccines and hospitals: The bill will provide about $50 billion in purchasing, distributing, and administering the new Moderna and Pfizer vaccines in states and hospitals. 
Hospital employees in North Carolina administer the Moderna vaccine on essential employees, such as nurses
New York Times

3: How has the package fallen short of expectations?

Meager checks: Instead of the previous $1200 provided to struggling Americans in the first package, the second package provides $600 to low-income citizens, a notably smaller amount that has incited contentious debate between both parties, and most recently, the president. 

State and local governments: In the first stimulus bill, passed in April, $150 billion was distributed to state and local governments solely for the purpose of combating COVID-19. However, as the 2020 recession lingered, they have been forced to make budget cuts as their sales, income, and corporate tax revenues declined. For months, the National Governors Association has asked Congress for at least $500 billion in funds to cover budget falls and hoped that the second stimulus bill would provide that for them. In response, Democrats have favored providing aid for these local governments and were planning on funding them with $160 billion, but Republicans were against this idea because they claimed that providing this large amount would excuse states who have been fiscally irresponsible. Additionally, the extra $160 billion in funds could cross the Republicans’ $1 trillion cap on the second stimulus bill’s amount.  In the final draft of the second stimulus bill, state and local governments were given no funds

Caption: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Chair of the National Governors Association, called the lack of state and local funding a ‘major problem’ and ‘a major disgrace’
Angela Weiss/Getty Images

4: What do Republicans, Democrats, and the President think about the package?

President Trump: On December 22nd, only one day after this bill passed Congress, Trump released a video on Twitter outlining his two main problems with the bill. The first is that he believes that in regards to the stimulus checks going to individual American citizens, Congress “should increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000 or $4,000 for a couple.” His second problem is about the second bill’s current dispersion of funds. Trump pointed out that some of the bill’s funds will be directed toward areas that do not concern the US recession or pandemic, such as $40 million to the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and $1 billion to the Smithsonian Institution (neither of which are currently open for business), $25 million to combat the spread of invasive species Asian carp, and $2.5 million to count the number of Amberjack fish in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oddly enough, his own head of Treasury, Steven Terner Mnuchin, was who proposed the $600 check. Also, as President, Trump had plenty of opportunities to influence discussions on the amount on the checks and the dispersion of the bill’s funds, yet he chose not to until after the final bill gained bipartisan support. Finally, he signed the bill last Sunday, on December 27, but only after strongly urging Congress to revisit the bill. 

Trump’s Twitter video, where he rejects the stimulus bill and calls it an ‘unsuitable disgrace’

Democrats: In regards to Trump’s recent comments, Democrats, surprisingly enough, supported his comments, saying that they support increasing the checks to his proposed amount. Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat and Speaker of the House of Representatives, tweeted in response: “At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 — Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let’s do it!” 

Surely enough, she brought it to the Floor of the House of Representatives and the revision for $2,000 checks passed through, and the Republican-majority Senate soon intends to debate and vote on this topic later this week. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the most vocal supporters against a stimulus bill exceeding $1 trillion
Nicholas Kamm/AP

Republicans: Just as surprising, Republicans are not all in support of Trump’s push for larger stimulus checks, since it would conflict with their goal of limiting the price of the stimulus bill. The bill puts Republican lawmakers in a tough position, since the majority of them have  supported Trump and benefitted in elections off his popularity.


  1. The Second Stimulus Package, worth $900 billion, passed through Congress with bipartisan support in late December. 
  2. This package was significantly smaller in amount than the first bill and provides $600 in stimulus checks specifically for low-income workers who qualify for the checks.
  3. Right after the bill passed, Trump took to Twitter to express his distaste for the package, which, he believed, provided meager checks for Americans, allotted funds to unnecessary aspects of the economy, and gave millions to foreign nations, but he eventually signed the bill and simply advocated for higher checks and less dispersion of funds to other countries
  4. The revision in stimulus checks that Trump advocated for has already passed the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, and it will soon be debated in the Republican-controlled Senate


Featured Photo Cite: DNY59 / Getty Images

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