Lawmakers have shown no signs of passing legislation to implement a fourth stimulus check – despite calls to do so from consumers grappling with the lingering financial fallout from the pandemic. But that could all change if a new strain of the coronavirus called omicron requires further lockdowns.
Here’s what Americans need to know about the option of another instant payment.
Omicron may be at increased risk – requiring a 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 designated a variant of concern by the World Health Organization, largely because it may be more transmissible than previous strains of COVID.
Much is still unknown about the ommicron variety because it is so new. However, early evidence indicates it may be much more contagious than previous recurrences of the virus. While it shares similarities with the delta variant, which also spreads faster than the original virus, it can be even more contagious and spread even faster than delta did.
However, the good news is that it is an open question whether it causes more or less severe disease than previous strains or whether the vaccines already developed will remain as effective. And there’s some evidence that it can cause milder illness.
Despite the uncertainty, ommicron has already sparked action from world leaders, many of whom have imposed new restrictions in an effort to slow its spread. President Joe Biden is one of those leaders, as the president recently suspended travel from South Africa in response to concerns about the variant.
American infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci also indicated that Americans must be prepared to do “anything and everything” to stop the spread of the new variant. Fauci went on to say that while it was “too early to say” whether lockdowns would be necessary, Americans should “prepare for the worst.”
If government officials impose further restrictions that lead to businesses closing, it would slow the economic recovery in the US. It would likely lead to significant job losses if more lockdowns happened. When the coronavirus pandemic was first declared in March 2020, the US lost 701,000 jobs in a month – the biggest job loss since the 2009 recession. Further lockdowns could have similar consequences, especially if there are concerns about whether a vaccine is effective will be to stop the spread and get people back to work.
Lawmakers took two-pronged action when these original shutdowns took place, passing two stimulus packages under President Donald Trump that ensured checks were deposited in most Americans’ bank accounts. While only Democrats signed the third stimulus bill passed early in Biden’s presidency, it’s likely Republicans would get on board with Democrats to conduct a fourth check if the economy is forced to close again.
Obviously this is a worst case scenario and hopefully this new strain of virus will prove to be both mild and preventable by the vaccines already on the market. But if not, omicron could be the only chance Americans have of getting a fourth stimulus check in 2022.