Officials in Washington are inching closer to providing Americans with more financial relief from the coronavirus, and it’s sounding more and more likely that a new aid package will include another round of direct payments — you know, those popular “stimulus checks.” (Not to mention direct deposits and debit cards.)
How much will you get? Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin indicates you’ll receive the same amount as last time, which was $1,200 for most people. That’s even though Senate Republicans had wanted new relief to go only to lower-income Americans.
Here’s a look at what is known right now about the next aid measure.
Mnuchin: Stimulus checks will be ‘exact same’
After a negotiating session on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Mnuchin said the government is looking to do a repeat of the first stimulus checks. The money would provide welcome relief at a time when high unemployment is forcing many Americans to go into debt to meet basic expenses.
“We’re talking about the same provision as last time. Our proposal is the exact same provision as last time,” Mnuchin told reporters, according to multiple media outlets.
The original stimulus checks started going out in April to most U.S. adults, though the $1,200 payments phased out for taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes over $75,000. Single earners making more than $99,000 and married couples with adjusted gross incomes above $198,000 got no money at all.
Americans in tough financial spots spent the money on groceries or bills. Others splurged with the cash, or used it for more practical purposes — like to buy affordable life insurance to protect family members in case a breadwinner became fatally ill from COVID-19.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had suggested at a news conference in early July that the next stimulus checks might go only to the lowest earners, those making around $40,000 a year or less.
A $40,000 cap would have meant no second payments for many of the more than 150 million U.S. households that were eligible for the first ones. Only about 36 million households earned less than $35,000 in 2018, according to census data that doesn’t break out incomes under $40,000.
When will you get your money? Stay tuned
The timing of the next stimulus checks is unclear, because there’s still a lot of work to be done.
The White House and the Republicans who control the Senate have largely reached agreement on a new aid package, after some compromises. For example, there won’t be a payroll tax cut, which President Donald Trump had wanted.
The Senate still must make a deal with the U.S. House, which is run by Democrats.
The House passed a new relief bill in mid-May. Among other things, it would put as much as another $1,200 directly into the pockets of most Americans, including children, to a limit of $6,000 per household.
The first stimulus payments provided households with only $500 for each child under age 17.
Things could move quickly in the next week as time runs out on a part of the original relief law that’s kept many out-of-work Americans from falling into poverty. The government is providing an extra $600 in unemployment benefits per week, but that bonus money ends July 31 unless Congress extends it.
An extension measure could include the new direct payments. If not, lawmakers are aiming to get a stimulus deal done before their summer recess starts in early August, and Mnuchin told CNBC his Treasury Department can then get the money “into hardworking Americans’ bank accounts very, very quickly.”
The bottom line
So, you can probably count on getting another stimulus check this summer. But if you’re just barely getting by right now and could seriously use another $1,200, here are a few tips to help you hold things together in the meantime:
- Consolidate your debt. If you’ve got multiple high-interest credit cards, roll those balances into a debt consolidation loan with a lower interest rate. You’ll reduce the cost of that debt and have only a single monthly payment to worry about.
- Put payments on pause, if you can. During the pandemic, a number of lenders, banks and utility companies are letting customers put their payments on hold. See if you can get a break on your bills. If your car insurance company won’t work with you, it might be time to start shopping around for a better one.
- Reduce your monthly spending. You might cut your cable and switch to a less expensive streaming service. Resist the urge to have dinner delivered and prepare your meals at home instead. Use a cash-back card to buy groceries, because it’s like saving money every time you shop.
- Get a side hustle. Make extra money by picking up a side gig. Or bring in quick cash by signing up for an online rewards program that’ll allow you to earn cash and gift cards by completing surveys, watching videos or playing games on your smartphone.