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Americans are eager for more relief money

Stack of 20 dollar bills with US Treasure illustrative check to illustrate coronavirus stimulus payment on white background
Steve Heap / Shutterstock

It's been more than seven months since the government began distributing the first round of stimulus payments, and Americans have been eager for another batch, especially as the pandemic has spiraled out of control in recent weeks, prompting new lockdowns and layoffs.

Consumers say new checks from Uncle Sam would put them in a merrier mood this holiday season. A Franklin Templeton-Gallup survey found 16% of people planned to spend more on gifts this year — but that jumped to 22% in the event of more $1,200 relief payments.

Meanwhile, 37% said they would spend less this holiday season, but that dropped to 30% if the government provided second stimulus checks.

Several lawmakers from across the political spectrum say they won't support a new aid bill that doesn't call for direct payments.

"I'd want to see that included," Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri told NBC News. "I don't know why we wouldn't give assistance directly to families and individuals who need it. It's fast — it's as fast as anything else."

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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 pay for basic expenses like groceries and utilities.

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

Biden said at a news conference on Friday that the new relief package would be better with $1,200 cash payments for Americans rolled in.

"I understand that may still be in play," he added.

Speaker Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer hinted last week that stimulus checks could become part of the final bill. "Of course, we and others will offer improvements," they said in a statement.

If negotiators can reach an agreement this week — one that includes new direct payments — it's possible some Americans would start receiving money by the end of December, based on how quickly the money started flowing the first time.

But if no deal on stimulus checks comes now, you'll have to wait for the new Congress and new administration in January — meaning no cash before February. Biden has called the current proposal "just a start" and has pledged to make a big push for more aid once he takes office.

What do you do in the meantime?

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

If you're hurting for cash and are tired of waiting for the government to get its act together, here are a few tips to help you rustle up another $1,200 on your own.

  • Slice your spending. Dump any subscription services you're not using. Do more of your own cooking and stop ordering delivery 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.

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

  • Tap the brakes on your insurance costs. As Americans have cut back on their driving this year, many car insurance companies have lowered their rates. But 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 on your homeowners insurance — by comparing quotes from multiple companies to find a lower price for your coverage.

  • Refinance your mortgage. Mortgage rates just hit a record low for the 14th time in 2020, and refinancing your existing loan could save you a ton of money. According to the mortgage technology and data provider Black Knight, 19.4 million U.S. homeowners could bring down their payments by an average $309 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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