Following Washington bickering and gamesmanship that dragged on through the spring, summer and fall, Congress finally approved new direct payments to Americans, to help households and the economy weather the financial fallout from COVID-19.
That’s right: It’s the long-awaited second round of “stimulus checks.”
The bill was signed Sunday night, and the IRS says it has already begun distributing the money. But you may find the amount disappointing — and will want to find other relief on your own.
How much will you get — and when?
WASHINGTON DC – APRIL 2, 2020: United States Treasury check with US currency. Illustrates coronavirus stimulus payment
Jason Raff / Shutterstock
What’s the amount most people will receive? $600 — half the $1,200 per person Americans got the first time. Democrats and President Donald Trump have pushing this week to raise the amount to $2,000, but that proposal appears likely to die in the Republican-led U.S. Senate.
You could receive the money very shortly: The IRS expected direct deposits to begin Tuesday night and continue into next week. Paper checks were supposed to start going into the mail on Wednesday.
The tax agency says in a news release that payments are automatic for eligible taxpayers including: anyone who filed a 2019 return; Social Security recipients; and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries who didn’t file a tax return.
The money phases out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income over $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for married couples who file jointly.
Americans have been eager for another relief payment. A survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that close to 60% used their first checks to cover basic expenses like groceries and utility bills.
Some also invested the cash, the survey said, or used it for other, unspecified things. Those may have included buying affordable life insurance— sales of life insurance policies have surged this year amid the pandemic.
What if you were counting on more than $600?
Serious couple with little girl counting budget at home
Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock
President-elect Joe Biden has called the new relief money a “down payment” and has promised to press for more once he’s in office. But if $600 isn’t enough for you right now, here are ways to pull together more money on your own:
Slash your spending. Shed any subscription services you’re not using. Do more of your own cooking and stop ordering carryout so much. And download a free browser add-on that will save you money every time you shop online, by instantly checking for better prices.
Cut your debt down to size. If you’ve been relying on your credit cards a lot during the coronavirus crisis, you’re probably piling on interest. Tame your credit card debt — and make it go away more quickly — by rolling your balances into a single debt consolidation loan at lower interest.
Trim your insurance costs. As Americans have cut back on their driving this year, many car insurance companies have lowered their rates. If your insurer won’t cut you a break, it’s time to shop around for a better deal. You also might save hundreds on your homeowners insurance by comparing rates to get a better price.
Refinance your mortgage. Mortgage rates are at record lows that are stunning, and refinancing your current home loan could provide huge savings. Mortgage tech and data provider Black Knight says 19.4 million U.S. homeowners could cut their monthly house payments by an average $308 per month through a refi.