Lawmakers have shown no sign of passing legislation to deliver a fourth stimulus check – despite calls to do so from consumers grappling with the continuing financial impact of the pandemic. But that could all change if a new strain of coronavirus called omicron requires additional blockages.
Here’s what Americans need to know about the possibility of another direct payment.
Omicron could present high risk – requiring fourth stimulus check
Omicron is the latest variant of COVID-19 identified by scientists. The new strain of the coronavirus, first identified in South Africa, has been named by the World Health Organization as a variant of concern largely because it may be more transmissible than previous COVID strains.
Much remains unknown about the omicron variant because it is so new. However, early evidence indicates that it could be much more contagious than previous iterations of the virus. In fact, while it has similarities to the delta variant, which also spreads faster than the original virus, it can be even more contagious and spread even faster than delta.
The good news, however, is that the question remains open whether it causes more or less severe disease than previous strains or whether vaccines already developed will remain as effective against it. And there are indications that it can cause milder illness.
Despite the uncertainty, omicron has already pushed world leaders to act, many of whom have imposed new restrictions in an attempt to slow the spread. President Joe Biden is one such leader, as the president recently suspended travel from South Africa in response to concerns about the variant.
US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci also said Americans must be prepared to do “anything and everything” in order to fight the spread of the new variant. Fauci went on to say that while it was “too early to tell” whether closures would be necessary, Americans must “prepare for the worst.”
If government officials put in place new restrictions that shut down businesses, it would slow the economic recovery underway in the United States. This would likely result in substantial job losses if more closures occurred. When the coronavirus pandemic was first declared in March 2020, the United States lost 701,000 jobs in one month – the biggest job loss since the 2009 recession. Other lockdowns could have consequences similar, especially if there are concerns about whether a vaccine will be effective in stopping the spread and getting people back to work.
Lawmakers took bipartisan action when these initial lockdowns took place, passing two stimulus packages under President Donald Trump that provided for the deposit of checks into the bank accounts of most Americans. While only Democrats signed the third stimulus bill that was cleared at the start of Biden’s presidency, it is likely that Republicans would join Democrats in providing a fourth check if the economy were to fail again. Stop.
Obviously, this is the worst-case scenario and hopefully this new strain of the virus will prove to be both benign and preventable by vaccines already on the market. But if it doesn’t, omicron might be Americans’ only chance for a fourth stimulus check in 2022.