Stimulus checks head to a vote on the House floor
The new stimulus checks are tucked into a nearly 600-page COVID relief bill that passed a key U.S. House committee on Monday, on its way to a vote by the full House Friday or Saturday. The Budget Committee approved it 19-16, along party lines.
Besides the stimulus checks, other aid packed into the massive legislation includes more money for vaccines and $400 a week in federal unemployment benefits.
"We are in a race against time. Aggressive, bold action is needed before our nation is more deeply and permanently scarred by the human and economic costs of inaction," Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Democrat, said before the vote.
The very first stimulus checks — for up to $1,200 — were distributed starting last spring and were primarily used to cover essential needs, including groceries and rent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has said.
Some of the cash also was used for saving and investing, a bureau survey found, or for other expenses. Those may have included buying affordable life insurance, because demand for life insurance policies has surged due to COVID-19.
Once the bill passes the House, Democratic leaders in the Senate reportedly aim to move it quickly to a vote there, without having various Senate committees sign off first.
When can you expect your next stimulus check?
Congress is racing the legislation along so out-of-work Americans won't experience a lapse in the bonus benefits they're getting from the federal government. The unemployed are currently receiving $300 a week from Washington, but those payments are ending soon.
“The Senate is on track to send a robust $1.9 trillion package to the president’s desk before the March 14 expiration of Unemployment Insurance benefits. We will meet this deadline,” Majority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in a letter to Senate Democrats on Friday.
Schumer's party holds the Senate by the narrowest possibly margin and will need every vote from its ranks. There's some uncertainty over West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who has questioned the income limits for a stimulus check.
The amounts of the previous two checks phased out for individuals earning over $75,000 a year, and Congress is planning to keep Round 3 the same. But Manchin has supported lowering the threshold and cutting off payments entirely for Americans making over $75,000.
If Democrats are able to keep Manchin and the rest of their troops in line, and Biden has a bill to sign before March 14, the IRS could start pumping out stimulus check payments within a few days. That means you'd receive your cash as soon as the second half of March.
What if you need your next stimulus check right away?
Granted, that means you'll be waiting at least another month before you see your money. If your bills are piling up and you need more funds right now, here are a few ways to squeeze some cash out of your budget starting today:
Shrink your debt payments. Have your credit cards been keeping you afloat through the pandemic? If so, the interest will eventually sink you. Cut the cost of that debt — and make it go away faster — by bunching up your balances into a single debt consolidation loan at lower interest.
Spend just a few minutes to find cheaper insurance. If COVID is keeping your car in the driveway more often, your car insurance company should give you a break on your rate. If not, shop around for a better deal — and make a switch. Do some comparison shopping with your homeowners insurance, too, and you might easily save hundreds of dollars a year on that coverage.
Refinance your mortgage (if you've got one) for big savings. If you haven't refinanced your home loan in the last year, you’re overdue. Rates have been lower than ever, so refinance your mortgage now and reap big savings. An estimated 16.7 million U.S. homeowners could reduce their monthly payments by an average $303 through a refi, says mortgage tech and data provider Black Knight
What if you won’t get a stimulus check this time?
For now, Congress is planning to maintain the existing income limits on stimulus checks — meaning if you got a full payment before, you'll get one again.
But if it appears you won't receive the full $1,400 check — or any payment at all — there are a couple of things you can try:
File your 2020 taxes ASAP. The IRS will base your eligibility on your most recent tax return, either from 2019 or 2020. If your income dropped last year due to the pandemic, you’ll want to get that information in front of the tax agency. Log into a good tax software program, file your 2020 return quickly, and improve your chances of getting a stimulus check.
Trim your budget and "make your own" stimulus check. By finding a few creative ways to cut back, you might be able to wring out $1,400 from your current budget. Maybe it’s time say goodbye to streaming services or other monthly subscriptions you've stopped using. Got a hobby or special talent? Turn it into a side hustle to bring in extra income. And, download a free browser add-on that will automatically sniff out better prices and coupons when you shop online.