'Families shouldn't have to worry'

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Millions of Americans are still in financial distress, with about 4 in 10 saying their income remains below its prepandemic levels, according to a recent survey from the credit bureau TransUnion.

Back in January, 56 House Democrats led by Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar sent Biden a letter urging him to consider recurring stimulus payments.

“We are experiencing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with millions of Americans either unemployed, forced out of the workforce or facing a decline in hours and wages,” the letter said.

And at the end of March, 21 Democratic senators joined the chorus of voices calling for more payments. "Families shouldn’t have to worry about whether they’ll have enough money to pay for essentials in the months ahead," the senators wrote Biden in a separate letter.

Many households have used stimulus money to cover basic expenses, like groceries and rent, according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study of how last year's very first checks were spent.

Once those needs were met, some of the cash was used for saving and investing, the bureau found, or for other expenses that may have included buying affordable life insurance. Demand for those policies has surged during the pandemic.

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New checks face major obstacles

Support for more stimulus checks is far from universal. Last month, the Democrats who control Congress struggled to push through Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID rescue package, which provided $1,400 stimulus checks and many other benefits.

The bill passed with simple majorities using a streamlined process that required no support from Republicans — who all voted no.

Even moderate members of the Democratic party weren’t in agreement about the need for the third round of payments, so there may not be enough political support for further stimulus checks.

“I think it’s unlikely at this time,” Raymond James analyst Ed Mills tells CNBC.

Another reason not to hold out hope is that the Biden’s administration has turned its focus to other priorities, including the massive infrastructure bill. So far, the White House hasn't commented on whether relief payments might be included.

But that's looking less and less likely, with more Americans getting vaccinated by the day. The stock market is hitting new highs, hiring is booming, and life appears to be on its way back to normal — lessening the perception of the need for more economic stimulus.

What to do if you need money right now

Couple sitting on their couch looking at laptop and bils
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If you can’t wait for lawmakers to decide whether to send out more stimulus checks and you need cash ASAP, you have some options.

  • Cut the price of your debt. Credit and debit card spending increased in March by 45% compared to the same period last year, according to data from the Bank of America. If you’re relying on your credit card, you'll soon be dealing with a ton of expensive interest. Rein in your debt — and pay it off more rapidly — by rolling your balances into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan.

  • Shrink your insurance bills. Car insurance companies have been offering customers discounts as everyone has been driving far less through the pandemic. If your insurer won't negotiate, it's time to shop around for a better deal. And while you’re at it, you could save hundreds by comparison shopping find a lower price on homeowners insurance.

  • Stop procrastinating and refinance your mortgage. If you've got a mortgage and haven't tried to compare rates and refinance your loan in the last year, you're missing out. The mortgage data and technology provider Black Knight recently said 11.1 million homeowners still have the potential to save an average $277 a month through a refi.

  • Grow your spare change. A popular app helps you get investing returns quickly using "spare change" — it rounds your everyday purchases up to the nearest dollar and drops the difference into an investment account, so you can take advantage of the record-shattering stock market.

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About the Author

Sigrid Forberg

Sigrid Forberg

Associate Editor

Sigrid’s current role is associate editor, and she has also worked as a reporter and staff writer on the MoneyWise team.

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