It’s already been more than a month since the IRS began sending Americans COVID stimulus checks, direct deposits and debit cards for $600. So where’s the other $1,400 that leaders were hoping to approve quickly — to turn those last relief payments into an even $2,000?
The additional money has gotten held up, as President Joe Biden’s broader $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue package is now entangled in the usual Washington political maneuvering. But the Democrats who now control Congress are planning votes this week aimed at putting the checks and other aid on a fast track.
Here’s what to expect this week, plus the latest estimate on when you’re likely to receive more cash.
Biden: ‘Risk is not doing enough’
The White House has been reaching out to Republicans in hopes of winning bipartisan support for Biden’s coronavirus plan. But Republicans flat-out oppose parts of his package, including an increase in the federal minimum wage, and they want the new direct payments focused on lower-income Americans.
The president has said he’s willing to negotiate on income limits for the next checks, but the administration is standing firm on wanting Congress to pass Biden’s entire COVID plan.
“We have learned from past crises that the risk is not doing too much,” Biden said on Friday. “The risk is not doing enough.”
The government’s first, $1,200 relief payments — which were distributed to Americans last spring — were largely needed for essentials, including groceries and rent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has said.
A bureau survey found people also used the money for investing or found other, unspecified purposes for it. Those may have included buying affordable life insurance — sales of policies have surged amid the pandemic.
What’s the latest on timing of 3rd checks?
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Thursday that the House and Senate will take key votes this week on a budget bill that could allow Biden’s package — including the $1,400 stimulus checks — to clear Congress with no Republicans on board, if that’s what it takes.
But that approach would infuriate Republicans. On Sunday, 10 of them from the Senate sent a letter to Biden urging him to negotiate with them and find compromise.
Given the delicate nature of where things stand, and the fact that the Senate will be consumed by the impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump starting the week of Feb. 8, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer now says Congress may not approve the new stimulus checks until mid-March.
“We’ll try to get that passed in the next month, month and a half,” the New York Democrat said on Monday of last week, according to multiple media outlets.
Under that timetable, you’re not likely to see your next relief until late March, and maybe not before April.
What if you need more money immediately?
If COVID is beating up on your household budget and you need additional cash right now, here are a few ways to come up with some money on your own:
Curb the cost of your debt. If you’ve had to use credit cards more than usual during the COVID crisis, you’re likely piling up interest, and that gets expensive. Take control of your credit card debt — and make it go away more swiftly — by rolling your balances into a single, lower-interest debt consolidation loan.
Find creative ways to save. Cancel streaming services and any other monthly subscriptions you’re not using. Resist the urge to order dinner deliveries, plan out homecooked meals, and go to the grocery store with a list you’ll stick to. And, download a free browser add-on that will automatically hunt for better prices and coupons whenever you shop online.
Cut your insurance bills. Since many of us are driving less during the pandemic, car insurance companies have been giving price breaks. But if your auto insurer is one of the stingy ones, shop around for a better policy. You can potentially save hundreds on your homeowners insurance by comparing rates to find a lower price on that coverage.
Refinance your mortgage and slash 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 have the potential to cut their housing payments by an average $308 per month through a refi.