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Second stimulus checks: What's happening?

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - May 7, 2020 : Hand clutches United States Treasury Economic Impact stimulus check and envelope
The Toidi / Shutterstock

More than six months have passed since Trump signed the law that gave you your first — and so far only — stimulus check. (Which, by the way, were mostly direct deposits, not checks.)

The typical payment was $1,200, though Americans with higher incomes got less, or nothing at all. Families received $500 per child, but only up to age 16.

Households devastated by layoffs and lockdowns used the money to buy food or pay routine bills. Americans in better financial shape went splurging, or used the cash for more practical things — like buying affordable life insurance to protect family members if a breadwinner died from the virus.

At the start of October, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House approved a new $2.2 trillion bill offering another $1,200 for most people, plus $500 per dependent. But the House needs to get an agreement with the Republicans in charge of the Senate and White House.

Following his recent hospitalization for COVID-19, Trump said Pelosi wasn't negotiating in good faith and announced that the discussions were over until after the election.

But they were underway again a few days later, and the White House has been moving closer and closer to the Democrats' plan.

The administration is now proposing an "almost $1.9 trillion package," including a second round of direct payments to Americans, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters on Monday.

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How soon could you get more stimulus money?

With unemployment still high and with cooler weather bringing predictions of new COVID infection spikes and new lockdowns, many consumers have been hoping for another $1,200.

Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Mnuchin spoke for an hour and 15 minutes Saturday night and planned to talk again Monday afternoon, Treasury spokeswoman Monica Crowley said on Twitter.

Pelosi said Sunday on ABC's This Week program that an agreement needed to be reached within 48 hours in order to get a bill passed before the Nov. 3 election. "But I'm hopeful," she said.

No one gets any money until negotiators can settle on a bill that would pass the House and Senate, then be signed by the president. But the Senate remains a big question mark.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said it's "unlikely" that something would come together before the election, and he has announced plans for a vote Wednesday on a stripped-down rescue bill — with no stimulus checks.

If McConnell is wrong and a "big" (as the president would say) deal can be reached this month, before Election Day, money could start finding its way into Americans pockets in November.

Once legislation is passed, the cash could flow relatively quickly because the government has already been through the process once this year.

But if new relief for Americans has to wait until after the election — regardless of who wins — it's unlikely new stimulus checks would go out before December.

What do you do in the meantime?

Worried family with child sitting with financial documents at home
Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock

If your budget is stretched to the limits and you could really use an extra $1,200 right now, here are a few ways to find that cash on your own — and stop waiting for Washington to get its act together.

  • Lower the cost of your debt. If you're carrying high-interest credit cards, bundle those balances into a debt consolidation loan at a lower interest rate. You'll make that debt less expensive and replace multiple monthly payments with just one.
  • Cut your insurance bills. Car insurance companies have been lowering their rates as Americans have been driving less. If your insurer won't give you a break, shop around for a better one. And when your homeowners insurance comes due, seek rate quotes from competing home insurers and compare them — to get the best deal on coverage.
  • Refinance your mortgage. If you've got a mortgage and haven't refinanced yet in 2020, you're overdue. Thanks to the lowest mortgage rates on record, more than 19 million homeowners have the potential to reduce their monthly payments by around $300 through a refi, says data firm Black Knight.
  • Clamp down on your monthly spending. Consider dropping your cable and using a less expensive streaming service. Fight the urge to order delivery for dinner and make meals in your own kitchen. And, download a free browser extension that will find you the best price every time you shop online.
  • Pick up a side hustle. Earn extra money by getting yourself a side gig. Turn a hobby into a source of income; you can use an online marketplace to find someone eager to pay for your talents and skills.

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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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