A day that’s been a long time coming may finally be here.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (pictured) and other congressional leaders have reportedly reached a compromise that clears the way for votes on a new coronavirus rescue package, including a second round of direct aid payments to Americans.
Yes, “stimulus checks.”
The U.S. House has scheduled a session for Sunday, with votes expected as early as 1 p.m.
You could get your money within weeks, but you may find the amount disappointing — and will need a plan to find other relief on your own.
Counting on another $1,200? Sorry
According to multiple media reports, the new aid bill includes money for struggling businesses, $300 a week in bonus unemployment benefits, and fresh direct payments to help struggling U.S. households and stimulate the weak economy.
How much will most people get? $600 — half the $1,200 per person the IRS distributed the first time, about eight months ago.
Americans have been eager for more government cash, especially as the out-of-control pandemic prompts new lockdowns and layoffs. Nearly 6 in 10 (57%) say they’re in a financial squeeze from the coronavirus, according to a recent survey from credit bureau TransUnion.
Critics say $600 isn’t enough; Democratic Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts even calls it an “insult.” But President-elect Joe Biden said last week that Americans should think of the checks as merely a “down payment.”
What if you need more than $600 right now?
If you’re straining to make ends meet and need more than a $600 payment right now, consider these ways to pull together more money 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 during the coronavirus crisis, you’re probably piling on a lot 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 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 shop around for a better option. You also might save hundreds by comparing rates to get a better deal on your home insurance.
Refinance your mortgage. Mortgage rates are at record lows, and refinancing your existing loan could provide huge savings. Mortgage tech and data provider Black Knight says 19.4 million U.S. homeowners could cut their monthly house payments by an average $308 per month through a refi.
When can you expect your check?
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.
If Congress can pass the new COVID rescue package quickly and get it signed by outgoing President Donald Trump before Christmas, the money could start flowing shortly after New Year’s, allowing for holiday season absences at the IRS.
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.
The first recipients would be taxpayers whose bank information is already on file with the tax agency, including those who received their last stimulus payment by direct deposit.