Leaders in Washington will try again this week to reach a deal on more financial relief from COVID-19, including a second round of cash payments for Americans. You know, “stimulus checks.”
The negotiations already have dragged on for months and months and months. Some progress has been made, but now Congress and the White House can’t agree on the size of new direct payments — or whether there should be any checks at all.
Time is running out for negotiators to nail down a new rescue package by the end of the year. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said during a news conference last week that it’s possible the talks may go past Christmas.
Meanwhile, as COVID cases explode in the U.S., Americans are hurting — and want more help. Here’s what we know right now whether the IRS might send you more cash after the holidays, and how much you could get.
Americans are ready for more relief money
It’s been about eight months since the government began distributing the first payments, to help stimulate the struggling economy. Americans are eager for more money, especially as the pandemic spirals out of control and prompts new lockdowns and layoffs.
Nearly 6 out of 10 Americans (57%) say they’re feeling a financial squeeze because of the coronavirus, says a new survey from the credit bureau TransUnion. And, 75% want to see additional stimulus checks, according to a Vox/DFP Polll.
Since the spring, Democrats have been pushing for a second round of cash similar to the first, with most Americans receiving $1,200 from Uncle Sam.
At the beginning of December, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators pitched a compromise aid bill — with no direct payments. Then last week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin offered a new proposal, calling for $600 stimulus checks.
Though that plan came from his own administration, outgoing President Donald Trump would like to see Americans get as much as $2,000, The Washington Post has reported.
The president said during an interview for Sunday’s Fox & Friends show on Fox News that he wants to “see checks — for more money than they’re talking about — going to people.”
What’s the possible timing now for second checks?
Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri has urged Trump to veto any relief package that doesn’t include more cash for consumers.
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 like groceries and utilities.
Some also invested the cash, 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 negotiators can reach an agreement this week — and decide to provide Americans with $1,200, $600 or some other amount — it’s possible some people would start receiving money shortly after the holidays, in early January, based on how fast the payments started going out the first time.
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.
On Friday, President-elect Joe Biden said any rescue bill being considered this month “won’t be the total answer even if it gets passed, but it’s an important first step.” He has pledged to make a big push for more aid after he takes office on Jan. 20.
What do you do for now?
If you’re straining to make ends meet and are sick and tired of waiting for the government to get its act together, here are a few tips to help you pull together another $1,200 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 a lower interest rate.
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 on homeowners insurance, by comparing quotes from multiple companies to find a lower price for your coverage.
Refinance your mortgage. Mortgage rates are at a record low right now — for the 14th 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.