New checks are high on the agenda

Stack of 100 dollar bills with illustrative coronavirus stimulus payment check to show the virus stimulus payment to Americans
Steve Heap / Shutterstock

It's been only a few weeks since Americans started receiving their second economic stimulus payments. Yet the final sum was just $600, after a push by outgoing President Donald Trump and Democrats to raise the amount to $2,000 died in Congress during the final days of 2020.

In his speech Thursday, Biden made a pledge to provide the missing $1,400, and he said that would be "immediate."

"We will finish the job of getting a total of $2,000 in cash relief to people who need it the most," Biden said. "The $600 already appropriated is simply not enough. You just have to choose between paying rent and putting food on the table."

When Americans received the government's initial round of $1,200 checks last spring, they largely spent the money on groceries and other basic expenses, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says.

But some people invested the cash, according to a bureau survey, or used it for other financial priorities. Those may have included buying affordable life insurance, as sales have surged during the current health crisis.

What's the possible timing on 3rd checks?

Leaders of the new Congress say fresh COVID aid, including the new direct payments, will be their first priority.

"We will get right to work to turn President-elect Biden’s vision into legislation that will pass both chambers and be signed into law," say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, in a statement.

Things will start to move forward this week. Biden will be sworn in on Wednesday, and by Friday the new Senate will be seated, with two Democratic newcomers from Georgia.

They beat Republican incumbents in recent runoff elections and will give Biden's party majorities in both houses of Congress, which could make it easier for the next stimulus checks to become reality. So could the support of Republicans who want to give Americans an additional $1,400, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

The Senate may soon have another huge item on its agenda: an impeachment trial for Trump. But Schumer is committed to passing the new pandemic package simultaneously. "Yes, we've got to do both," he told The Buffalo News.

What this all means is if Congress and the new administration are indeed able to come together swiftly on fresh relief money, you could receive yours as early as February.

What if you need more than $600 right now?

Poor family counting money to pay bills at the table at home
Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock

If the coronavirus is crushing your budget and you need more than the latest $600 checks right now, here are a few ways to scrape together some money on your own:

  • Hunt around in your budget for savings. Say goodbye to any subscription services you're not using. Do more cooking yourself, and stop ordering carryout so much. And download a free browser extension that will instantly check for better prices and coupons every time you shop online.

  • Slash the cost of your debt. If you’ve been leaning hard on your credit cards during the COVID crisis, you're probably building up a mountain of interest. Tame your credit card debt — and make it go away more quickly — by rolling your balances into a single debt consolidation loan at a lower interest rate.

  • Stop overpaying for insurance. Because Americans are driving less during the pandemic, many car insurance companies have cut their rates. If your insurer won’t give you a break, shop around for a better policy. You can also save hundreds on your homeowners insurance by comparing rates to find a lower price on that coverage.

  • Refinance your mortgage and shrink your payments. Mortgage rates have been lower than ever, so refinancing your existing home loan could provide major savings. Mortgage tech and data provider Black Knight says 19.4 million U.S. homeowners could cut their housing payments by an average $308 per month through a refi.

About the Author

Doug Whiteman

Doug Whiteman

Editor-in-Chief

Doug Whiteman is 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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