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Counting on another $1,200? You may get half that this time

United States Treasury check with US currency. Coronavirus economic impact stimulus payments or IRS tax refund.
Harun Ozmen / Shutterstock

According to multiple media reports, the new aid bill coming together on Capitol Hill includes money to help struggling businesses, $300 a week in bonus unemployment benefits, and new direct payments for Americans.

The amount? $600 — half the $1,200 per person that the IRS distributed the first time, about eight months ago

Americans have been eager for more money, especially as the pandemic spirals out of control and prompts new lockdowns and layoffs.

Nearly 6 in 10 Americans (57%) say they're feeling a financial squeeze from the coronavirus, says a new survey from the credit bureau TransUnion. And, 75% want to see additional stimulus checks, according to a Vox/DFP Poll.

Will they be satisfied with $600? In a Twitter poll, Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York asks, "Is $600 for a second COVID check enough?"

As of this writing, just 5% say yes, 33% say no — and 62% say "hell no."

A $600 payment isn't enough to cover the typical monthly rent in any state, according to a Business Insider analysis of census data.

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What's the possible timing now for second checks?

A survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that close to 60% of Americans used their first stimulus checks to cover basic expenses including groceries and utility bills.

Some also invested the money, according to the survey, or used it for other, unspecified purposes. Those may have included buying affordable life insurance— sales of life insurance policies have surged this year in the shadow of the pandemic.

Congressional leaders were racing to get a stimulus deal done by Friday, as part of work on a broader funding bill to avert a possible government shutdown. But it's expected lawmakers will buy themselves more time by passing a temporary funding bill.

If negotiators can reach an agreement before Christmas it's possible some people would start receiving money in early January. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told reporters in August that payments could start going out a week after a new aid bill is signed.

"I can get out 50 million payments really quickly, a lot of it into people's direct accounts," Mnuchin said.

But if no deal on stimulus checks comes between now and the end of the year, you'll have to wait for the new Congress and new administration in January — meaning no cash before February.

What do you do if $600 isn't enough? Or if there's no deal?

Poor young family of four with bags of food at home. Focus on woman
Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock

If you're straining to make ends meet, are disappointed at the thought of a $600 payment or are sick and tired of waiting for more help from Washington, here are tips to help you pull together more cash on your own.

  • Slash your spending. Dump any subscription services you're not using. Do more of your own cooking and stop ordering carryout so much. And download a free browser add-on that will save you money every time you shop online, by instantly checking for better prices.

  • Cut your debt down to size. If you’ve been leaning on your credit cards hard during the coronavirus crisis, you’re probably piling on a lot of interest. You can tame your credit card debt — and make it go away more quickly — by rolling your balances into a single debt consolidation loan at lower interest.

  • Trim your insurance costs. As Americans have cut back on their driving this year, many car insurance companies have lowered their rates. If your insurer won’t cut you a break, it’s time to start shopping around for a better option. You also might also be able to save hundreds by comparing rates to get a better deal on your home insurance.

  • Refinance your mortgage. Mortgage rates are at a record low right now — for the 15th time in 2020, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac. And, refinancing your existing loan could provide huge savings: According to the mortgage technology and data provider Black Knight, 19.4 million U.S. homeowners could lower their monthly house payments by an average $308 per month through a refi.

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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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