'Family stimulus checks' from the child tax credit
Through December, most households with children age 17 and younger are receiving monthly cash payments through a temporary expansion of the child tax credit. Households can get a total of up to $1,500 for kids ages 6 to 17, and as much as $1,800 for each child under age 6.
Next year at tax time, the credit will provide duplicate second helpings of money that families can collect through tax refunds.
Some lawmakers and advocates for policies that fight child poverty favor a permanent expansion, but Democrats cut a deal to keep the supersized credit for one more year, a compromise to get the budget support they need with their thin congressional majority.
Large pool of untapped rent assistance
More than 75% of $46.6 billion is still available in pandemic funds to help struggling renters, according to the latest U.S. Treasury data.
Despite red tape that has slowed states and local housing programs from giving out the cash, some places are getting their acts together.
For instance, significant improvements were made in September: Los Angeles gave out $72 million and Illinois distributed $177 million. Illinois tenants and landlords who qualify can request one-time grants of up to $25,000.
Money for distressed homeowners too
If you've had trouble keeping up with your house payments and utility bills, you can still seek financial relief through a $10 billion mortgage assistance program that was part of a massive federal stimulus package.
You can receive money if you have a loan balance that, in most parts of the U.S., doesn't top $548,250.
Aid for food workers
The government is recognizing workers who helped put food on tables during the pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced a program to help repay grocery, farm and meat-packing workers for their out-of-pocket expenses on protective equipment, child care, lost wages and other costs.
Eligible people can receive up to $600 in grants, which local agencies and nonprofits are distributing.
A price break on your internet connection
Another government program offers discounts on computers and internet access needed for jobs, critical health care services and virtual schooling.
Families who meet income requirements can get monthly discounts of up to $50 on broadband service and a one-time discount of up to $100 to buy a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from participating providers, under the Federal Communications Commission program.
Contact your broadband provider to apply for an eligible service, or sign up at GetEmergencyBroadband.org.
Other ways to stimulate your finances
If you aren’t eligible for any of these stimulus funds — or you are, but the assistance just isn’t enough — here are some tips to help you to find relief on your own.
Lower your debt. Take a look at the interest you’re paying on your credit cards. The higher the rate, the longer it will take to pay down what you owe. A lower-interest loan to consolidate your debt can help you erase your balance faster.
Pay less for your online spending. Many of us are doing more online shopping, especially since the start of the pandemic. There are easier ways to compare prices than spending hours looking at different screens and scanning through various sellers. A free browser extension will automatically search for lower prices and coupons.
Reduce your mortgage payments. If you own your home, the largest payment you make each month is probably your mortgage. A smart refinance can save you hundreds of dollars in lower interest. That frees more money to pay off your home faster. Refinance rates are at historic lows.
Invest your spare change. Round up your everyday purchases to make every penny count in your favor. A popular app helps you use your nickels, dimes and other “spare change” to build a diverse portfolio.