The House settles on stimulus check ground rules

President Joe Biden speaks in his office at the White House
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The new stimulus checks are part of President Joe Biden's massive pandemic package.

New stimulus checks of up to $1,400 are part of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID rescue package, which is whisking through Congress using a process that would allow it to pass with simple majorities. That means Democrats might get the job done with no Republicans on board.

Even so, Democrats thought they might try to attract some Republican support by tightening the income limit for receiving a payment.

The amounts of the first two checks phased out for Americans making over $75,000 a year, but Democrats toyed with the idea of lowering that threshold to $50,000. Republicans have said the money should be focused on people with the greatest need, to help them put food on the table and pay the rent.

Last spring, most recipients used their first $1,200 stimulus checks to cover essential needs, including groceries and rent payments, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has said.

Some also spent a portion of the funds on investing, a bureau survey found, or on other, unspecified things — possibly including affordable life insurance. Demand for life insurance policies has surged throughout the pandemic.

Ultimately, House Democrats indicated Monday evening that the new stimulus checks would move ahead with the same income limits as before — meaning if you got a full payment last time, you'll get one again.

When are you likely to see another stimulus check?

The targeting issue may not be settled for good, because Democrats control the Senate by the thinnest of margins and will need every vote from their side. But Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has supported the $50,000 income limit and says he wants proof that Americans making $75,000 are truly in need.

Congressional leaders continue to be optimistic about getting the next checks out quickly. On Wednesday, House committees started nailing down final details of the legislation; that work is expected to finish on Friday.

"Over the next many hours, and days, we will debate legislative proposals that are immensely important to the American people. They are proposals that many of our families and neighbors need to stay afloat in this incredibly challenging time," said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal.

Speaker Pelosi says the House can see the finish line. "We hope to have this all done by the end of February," she said on Thursday during a news conference, while adding that a bill should be on the president's desk no later than the first part of March.

Under that timeline, you could receive your next stimulus check as soon as late March.

What if you need another stimulus check immediately?

Anxious young couple look at bills while sitting on couch, holding heads in hands
fizkes / Shutterstock
Here are some ideas, if you need more cash ASAP.

If you simply can’t wait for Congress to sort this out and you need more money right now, there are a few things you can do to find the funds you need.

  • Dial down your debt. Have you been relying on credit cards to get through the current crisis? If so, you’re probably looking at a pile of expensive interest. Turn down that noise — and make it go away sooner — by putting all your balances into a single, lower-interest debt consolidation loan.

  • Downsize your insurance bills. Being stuck at home has its perks. With many of us driving less during the pandemic, car insurance companies have been handing out discounts. Is yours unwilling to bend? Easy — shop around for a better policy. As for your homeowners insurance, you could save hundreds just by comparing rates to find a lower price on that coverage.

  • Refinance your mortgage and shrink your payments. Mortgage rates have been dropping, so why not take advantage by refinancing your existing home loan? There are 16.7 million U.S. homeowners out there who could save an average $303 per month by refinancing, according to mortgage tech and data provider Black Knight.

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

If you’ve been banking on getting a $1,400 stimulus check but your income disqualifies you from receiving the full amount or any relief money at all, here are a couple of things you can do:

  • Get your 2020 taxes filed ASAP. Log into a good tax software program and get going on your 2020 return so you're ready to submit it as soon as the IRS begins accepting returns this Friday. The agency will be basing your eligibility for a stimulus check on your most recent tax return, so if your income dropped because of the pandemic in 2020, getting that on the record may improve your chances of receiving a payment.

  • Trim your budget to "make your own" stimulus check. Look for creative ways to save, to find another $1,400 in your budget. For example, cancel streaming services and any other monthly subscriptions you're not making the most of. Have a hobby or special skill? Turn it 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.

About the Author

Sigrid Forberg

Sigrid Forberg

Staff Writer

Sigrid is a staff writer with MoneyWise. A graduate of Carleton University's journalism program, she spent the better part of the last six years writing about business and retail. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, baking and riding her bicycle.

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