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Fourth stimulus check in jeopardy as payments dwindle

·5-min read
Fourth stimulus check in jeopardy as payments dwindle
Fourth stimulus check in jeopardy as payments dwindle

Even though millions of Americans are still using stimulus money to pay for necessities, pandemic support from the government is running out.

Last week, the IRS sent another 1.1 million payments to Americans as part of the federal government’s most recent COVID-19 relief bill. While the payments total more than $2 billion, it’s the smallest amount released since the latest round of direct aid began on March 12.

And those numbers are only going to get smaller.

That’s a worrying prospect if you’re struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic. Advocacy groups are clamoring for another round of stimulus checks, but after all the Congressional wrangling it took to get the third batch approved, anyone fighting for a fourth has their work cut out for them.

Who's calling for a fourth stimulus check?

Stack of 100 dollar bills with illustrative coronavirus stimulus payment check to show the virus stimulus payment to Americans
Steve Heap / Shutterstock

The chorus of voices calling for extra direct payments grew significantly in the past week — by more than 2 million.

An online petition started by an out-of-work restaurant owner in Denver is calling for $2,000 stimulus checks for adults and $1,000 payments for children, followed by regular checks for the duration of the pandemic.

As of noon on Friday, 2.12 million people had already signed it.

“The recovery hasn’t reached many Americans – the true unemployment rate for low-wage workers is estimated at over 20%, and many people face large debts from last year for things like utilities, rent and child care,” writes Stephanie Bonin, the petition’s organizer. “It took nine months for Congress to send a second stimulus check, and just moments to spend it. Moving forward, Congress needs to make recurring checks automatic if certain triggers are met.”

Additional stimulus checks could be a game-changer. The Economic Security Project estimates that two additional stimulus checks would lift 12 million Americans out of poverty.

The White House is also under mounting pressure from members of Biden’s own party, who say a fourth stimulus check should begin a recurring series of cash payments that extends until the pandemic subsides.

“This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads,” says a letter sent to Biden by more than 20 U.S. senators. “Families should not be at the mercy of constantly shifting legislative timelines and ad hoc solutions.”

Will the president call for a fourth check?

Joe Biden
Nick_ John_07 / Shutterstock

Biden has been clear in his appraisal of just how important the first three rounds of stimulus checks have been for the survival of American families. In recent remarks delivered to Congress, the president said direct payments from the government are “making all the difference in the world.”

But he still hasn’t indicated whether he’s in favor of you getting another check. His press secretary hasn’t, either.

When asked about the possibility of recurring checks, Jen Psaki recently told reporters that such a proposal would need to work its way through Congress, adding that such programs “are not free.”

The cost of another round of checks, let alone recurring monthly payments, is a major sticking point — for both Republicans and Democrats. Biden is already trying to get over $4 trillion in spending approved by a very divided Congress. Adding hundreds of billions of dollars in recurring payments, especially at a time when the country’s economy is improving, will be a very tough sell.

Opponents of further direct aid also have a bit more ammo in their arsenal these days. Recent data from the Census Bureau shows that the percentage of people spending their stimulus checks on necessities like food, utilities and rent has fallen more with each successive round, while the amount going toward savings, paying down debt and clothing has increased.

You could argue that it’s hard to justify sending every American $1,400 for the next several months if people will use the funds for non-essential purposes. But even though the number of people using their checks for essentials is dropping, we’re still talking millions of people.

Need some stimulus right now?

Couple managing the debt
Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock

If you need more cash to get you through the pandemic, you have more options at your disposal than waiting for action from Washington. There are plenty of ways to create a little more breathing room on your own.

  • Take control of your debt. Credit card spending has, fairly predictably, been on the rise in lower-income households. If you've been relying on plastic to cover the cost of necessities, the interest you’ll have to pay will take a monstrous bite out of your finances over time. You can slash your interest costs and pay off all of your debts faster by rolling them into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan.

  • Refinance your mortgage. If you’re a homeowner and haven't refinanced your loan in the last year, you could be missing out on serious savings. With the typical mortgage rate dipping below 3% again, mortgage data and technology provider Black Knight says 13 million homeowners have an opportunity to save an average $283 a month through a refi.

  • Reduce your insurance costs. Because people have been driving far less during the pandemic, some car insurance companies have been offering their clients discounts. If your insurer isn’t one of them, it's time to find a better deal. A little comparison shopping could help you save big on homeowners insurance, too.

  • Grow your spare change in the stock market. You don't have to be rich to take a shot at the stock market, which has recovered from its COVID-19 losses — and then some. A popular app allows you to invest in a diversified portfolio just by using "spare change" from everyday purchases.

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