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Stimulus checks are on a fast track

USA dollar cash banknote stimulus economic tax return check with US flag
ungvar / Shutterstock

To speed along President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package, including the next stimulus checks, the Democrats who control Congress are using a streamlined process that could allow passage with simple majorities — meaning no Republican support.

Republicans say the president's bill is too expensive. In hopes of winning over some members of the opposing party, Democrats were reportedly considering targeting the new direct payments to lower-income people with the greatest need.

Last spring's first, $1,200 stimulus checks were largely spent on essential needs, including food and rent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has said.

Some of the money also was used for investing, a bureau survey found, or was spent on other, unspecified things — possibly including affordable life insurance. Demand for life insurance policies has surged due to COVID.

As part of the targeting, media reports had said the third stimulus checks might phase out for individuals making over $50,000, down from $75,000 for the earlier checks. But an aid bill unveiled by House Democrats on Monday keeps the same income limits — meaning if you got a full payment last time, you'll get one again.

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When are you likely to see another stimulus check?

Meanwhile, families may get more money this time. The last payments excluded college students and other dependents over age 16; Biden aims to fix that in the new go-round.

More than two-thirds of Americans (68%) support Biden's pandemic package, according to a Quinnipiac University poll. Congressional leaders have grown more optimistic about delivering it quickly, after a budget measure to fast-track the process passed the House and Senate last week.

Speaker Pelosi released a statement on Friday saying the hope is to wrap up work on Biden's COVID plan "before the end of February" — a timeline that could give you a fresh stimulus check in early March.

That's an improvement from an earlier remark from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, indicating it could take Congress until mid-March to pass the next stimulus checks. Under that scenario, you'd get no money in your pocket until late March, and maybe not before April.

What if you need another stimulus check immediately?

Worried young parent calculating bills at home
GreenMiles / Shutterstock

If COVID is battering your budget and you need additional cash right now, here are a few ways to tide yourself over financially until the next stimulus check comes.

  • Shrink the cost of your debt. If you’ve been using credit cards more than usual during the current crisis, you're probably piling up expensive interest. Tame your credit card debt — and make it go away more swiftly — by gathering up your balances into a single, lower-interest debt consolidation loan.

  • Shave down your insurance bills. Since many of us are driving less during the pandemic, car insurance companies have been giving price breaks. But if your auto insurer is stingy, shop around for a better policy. Plus, you might save hundreds on homeowners insurance by comparing rates to find a lower price on that coverage.

  • Refinance your mortgage and slash your payments. Mortgage rates have been lower than ever, so refinancing your existing home loan could provide big savings. Mortgage tech and data provider Black Knight says 19.4 million U.S. homeowners have the potential to cut their housing payments by an average $308 per month through a refi.

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What if you may miss out on a stimulus check this time?

If you've been looking forward to a $1,400 payment but are at risk of receiving a reduced amount or no money at all under new income restrictions, here are a couple of things you can do:

  • Get your 2020 taxes in quickly. Log into a good tax software program and start working on your 2020 return, so you're ready to submit it when the IRS begins accepting returns on Feb. 12. Your eligibility for a stimulus check will be based on your most recent tax return, so if your income was pinched by the pandemic in 2020, you may have a better chance of getting a $1,400 payment.
  • Find savings to "make your own" stimulus check. Look for creative ways to save, to squeeze $1,400 out of your budget. For example, cancel streaming services and any other monthly subscriptions you're not using. Turn a hobby or your special skills and talents into a side hustle, to bring in extra income. And, download a free browser add-on that will automatically hunt for better prices and coupons whenever you shop online.

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Doug Whiteman Former Editor-in-Chief

Doug Whiteman was formerly the editor-in-chief of MoneyWise. He has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and CNBC.com and has been interviewed on Fox Business, CBS Radio and the syndicated TV show "First Business."


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