The new stimulus checks face final vote
The COVID rescue bill passed the U.S. Senate last weekend and is now back before the House for a second and final vote there — to approve changes made by the Senate.
One key revision has narrowed the eligibility guidelines for stimulus checks, possibly making it tougher for you to get money this time:
- The legislation now provides no payments for individuals earning more than $80,000, or married couples who file taxes jointly and have incomes above $160,000. Originally, those income cutoffs were $100,000 and $200,000.
- Single filers making between $75,000 and $80,000, and couples earning between $150,000 and $160,000 will receive partial payments.
- Americans with lower incomes will receive full payments: $1,400 for individuals, $2,800 for joint filers.
Because Republicans have been unified against the legislation, President Biden agreed to the change to win over more conservative Democratic senators. They wanted the stimulus checks "targeted" toward needier Americans struggling with basic expenses.
Last year's first $1,200 checks were primarily spent on basics like food and rent. Some of the cash also was used for saving and investing, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found, or for other expenses that may have included buying affordable life insurance — demand for those policies has seen a surge during the pandemic.
How soon will you get your money?
The House vote is expected by Wednesday. Democrats are rushing to get a completed bill to Biden before Sunday, when out-of-work Americans could lose $300-a-week in emergency unemploment benefits from the federal government. The relief package extends those for several months.
On Monday, California Congressman Pete Aguilar, a member of the House Democratic leadership, made this prediction about the bill: "We'll pass it, and it'll get signed into law by the 14th.
Biden vowed Monday that he'd sign the legislation "as soon as I get it."
The last time a COVID relief bill was signed, it took the IRS just two days to start distributing stimulus checks via direct deposit. So, potentially, you could have your money by early next week.
But the timing this time may be a little more complicated because the IRS is in the middle of tax season. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki says it could take a little longer than a couple of days.
"We expect a large number of Americans to receive relief by the end of the month," Psaki says. "But in terms of the mechanics of it, Treasury just has to work through that." The IRS is part of the Treasury Department.
What if you're shut out of the third stimulus check?
An estimated 17 million fewer Americans will get stimulus checks this time because of the new income thresholds, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
If you're likely to lose out — and were counting on getting the $1,400 — here are a few tips on how to come up with the cash on your own:
Shave down the cost of your debt. If you've been leaning hard on your credit cards to get by during the pandemic, the interest costs are probably mounting. Rein in your debt — and dump it more quickly — by rolling your balances into a debt consolidation loan at lower interest.
If you've got a mortgage, refinance — and slash your payments. Mortgage rates remain historically low, and refinancing your home loan can reward you with big savings. Millions of homeowners who haven't yet refinanced still have an opportunity to cut hundreds of dollars off their monthly payment by taking out a new mortgage at a lower rate.
Find cheaper insurance. Car insurance companies have been handing out discounts because people have been driving less during the pandemic. If your insurer won't cut you a break, shop around for a better deal. You also could save hundreds each year by comparing homeowners insurance rates to find a lower price.
Take small money-saving steps that can make a big difference. Call your cellphone provider and switch to a more budget-friendly package. Turn your hobby or special talent into a side hustle to bring in extra income. And, download a free browser extension that will automatically search for better prices and coupons whenever you shop online.