Second stimulus checks: What's going on?

USA dollar cash banknote stimulus economic tax return check with US flag
ungvar / Shutterstock
The new payments will be the same as the last ones, except for families.

It's probably been months since you got your first — and so far only — COVID-19 stimulus check; the IRS started distributing those in April.

Most people got $1,200, though the payments started phasing out at higher incomes. Single earners making more than $99,000 and married couples with adjusted gross incomes above $198,000 got no cash at all.

Americans squeezed by layoffs and lockdowns used the money to put food on the table or pay bills. Those in better financial shape spent the cash on splurges, or on more practical purchases — like buying affordable life insurance to protect family members if a breadwinner became fatally ill from the virus.

In mid-May, another, similar round of stimulus money was included in a $3 trillion relief package that passed the Democratic-controlled U.S. House. In late July, the Republican-led Senate offered a proposal with 'just" a $1 trillion price tag, though it also called for new $1,200 payments.

The two plans differed slightly in terms of money for kids. The first stimulus payments gave families $500 per child, but only up to age 16. For the next round, the Senate wanted to provide $500 per dependent, no matter how old, while the House approved the full $1,200 for children, to a limit of three per household.

But the political parties — including the Republicans at the White House — haven't been able to find compromise on that much bigger $2 trillion difference between their two proposals. And the talks have broken down.

How soon could you get more stimulus money?

Happy new year 2020 concept: Close up calendar on desktop
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President Trump recently signed executive orders intended to partially restore the extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits that expired, and address a few other issues the two sides have been wrangling over. But your next stimulus payment is still stuck in congressional gridlock.

In his Friday tweet, the president wrote: "I have directed @stevenmnuchin1 to get ready to send direct payments ($3,400 for family of four) to all Americans."

Trump was referring to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, and the $3,400 figure appears to come from the original stimulus checks formula: $1,200 each for two adults, plus $500 each for two kids.

Trump's tweet finished with: "DEMOCRATS ARE HOLDING THIS UP!"

No one gets another stimulus check until negotiators can compromise on a bill that would pass both houses of Congress, then be signed by the president.

In a letter to fellow Democrats on Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blamed the stalemate on "complete disarray on the Republican side — as President Donald Trump contradicts his own negotiators and his own position," CNN reported.

Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke by phone last week but reportedly made no progress. No new formal talks are scheduled; the U.S. Senate is now in recess until Sept. 8, and the House isn't due back at work until the following week.

Once there's a deal, the checks could start flowing quickly — particularly since the government has already been through the process once. But it's looking likely that you won't see another stimulus check before October.

What do you do in the meantime?

Upset couple with child sitting at the table with financial documents
Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock

So here's the bottom line: Washington says it wants to give you more relief money, but the usual partisan shenanigans are bogging things down.

If your budget is stretched thin and you could really use that $1,200 payment right now, here are a few ways to find some extra cash immediately.

  • Cut the cost of your debt. If you've got high-interest credit cards, roll up those balances into a debt consolidation loan with a lower interest rate. You'll trim the cost of the debt and replace multiple monthly payments with just one.
  • Put payments on pause. Many lenders, banks and utility companies have let customers put their payments on hold because of the pandemic. See if you can get a break from your bills. If your car insurance company doesn't want to play ball, start shopping around for a better one.
  • Clamp down on your monthly spending. Consider dumping your cable and using a less expensive streaming service instead. Fight the temptation to have dinner delivered, and make meals in your own kitchen. And, use a cash-back card when you buy your groceries and other essentials, because that's like saving money each time you shop.
  • Get a side hustle. Earn extra money by picking up a side gig, or sign up for an online rewards program that will give you cash and gift cards for completing surveys, watching videos or playing games on your smartphone.

About the Author

Doug Whiteman

Doug Whiteman


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

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