The coronavirus stimulus check was meant to help Americans to protect their financial well-being; but the first check distributed only went so far. Can we depend on another stimulus check?
As the pandemic continues, the government is looking for more solutions to ease the financial difficulties so many Americans find themselves in at this time. Another stimulus package is being considered and has passed the House–including a second round of stimulus checks–although there is a lot of debate in the Senate about the details.
At the time this post was published, government officials are still determining what kind of financial support should be included in the next stimulus package. Here is a look at what’s being discussed, and how you can plan accordingly.
Has the first stimulus check helped at all?
The CARES Act approved a one-time payment for qualifying Americans during the coronavirus outbreak. These federal stimulus checks have been trickling out, providing a maximum of $1,200 for single income earners and $2,400 for couples, plus $500 per child.
While the stimulus checks were meant to help people in need, some would say that it isn’t enough. The pulse survey conducted by Freedom Debt Relief found that 59% of respondents disagreed that the check will be enough to get them through the current economy. In many cities, the cash assistance isn’t enough to cover one month’s rent. To make the situation even more difficult, not everyone has received a stimulus check, and the delivery could stretch out for several months.
What about the $2,000 a month stimulus check?
You may have heard about a second stimulus check that includes a $2,000 per month payout. At this time, there are multiple proposals, but no such recurring cash assistance has passed in Congress. One such proposal, the Emergency Money for the People Act, would hand out these payments for at least six months, but potentially for an additional six months if the employment-to-population ratio does not go back to pre-COVID-19 levels of 60% or more.
This new proposal includes adults who did not qualify for the first wave of stimulus checks, such as college students or disabled adults who are claimed as dependents. Qualifying individuals under this proposal are as follows:
- Americans age 16 or older who make less than $130,000 would receive the full $2,000 monthly amount.
- Married couples who make less than $260,000 combined would receive at least $4,000 per month.
- Couples with children would receive $500 per child per month, up to three children.
- Dependents, such as college students or adults with disabilities, qualify to receive a monthly cash payout.
It is not clear at this time if this or a similar proposal might pass congressional approval, but it wasn’t included in the package recently passed by the House, so it’s unlikely at this time.
Should everyone get a second stimulus check?
The first stimulus check included tiered payout amounts. If you made more than $99,000 per year as a single income earner, you didn’t receive a stimulus check. Now there’s talk about expanding those limitations to higher income earners.
This raises some concerns. Should everyone get a second stimulus check? More than 36 million Americans have filed for unemployment and arguably, they should receive a stimulus check first. However, under the Emergency Money for the People Act proposal, those who are still employed are slated to receive a second stimulus check.
Those who have filed for unemployment are navigating a loss of medical benefits, trying to pay bills, and looking for a new job. An additional stimulus check could help in the short-term, but likely won’t cover all of the essentials. Take the cost of groceries, for example. The average couple spends $621 per month on groceries, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Add that to your other expenses, like rent, utilities, and car expenses, and the costs are well over $1,200.
If you’re still employed but have experienced a pay cut or temporary furlough, your finances are likely impacted, too. Unemployment benefits aren’t available in this scenario, so a second stimulus check could help you stay afloat temporarily.
How could the second stimulus check affect personal debt?
Depending on your situation, a second stimulus check could help you pay off personal debt, but only if you spend it wisely. First, make sure you can still cover your basic living expenses. If you have already spent all of your first check, a second one could continue to pay the bills in the short-term.
There are currently measures in place for borrowers, like waived federal student loan payments and mortgage assistance programs. A second stimulus check could help you pay down debt or at least continue to make the minimum payments if you haven’t been able to get any forbearance on your debt.
If you are still employed and you can cover basic living expenses, you could prioritize debt payments. If you have high interest debt, focus on that first, putting any additional money towards the most expensive debt you have.
Other stimulus ideas that are being discussed
Along with another cash payout to Americans, other stimulus ideas are being discussed. Things like infrastructure upgrades, state and local government assistance, and full forgiveness of rent and mortgage payments might be included in the next stimulus bill. These additions could be beneficial during the pandemic. A plan is also in the works to expand internet access to neglected areas of the country. This means more people could work from home or seek medical treatment virtually. Unfortunately, it is not clear whether these specific recommendations have a good chance of passing.
Another important issue that is being discussed are payroll tax cuts. The CARES Act included temporary payroll tax cuts for employers, and could be included in the next phase. Any payroll tax cuts could be beneficial for those workers who still receive a paycheck, but worrisome for social security beneficiaries.
These taxes support those who are dependent on social security income to cover their living expenses. A cut would mean more money into the pockets of those who are still working, but less cash for those living off of social security. A solution for some could create problems for others, so they should be viewed from all angles.
How to plan for the short-term
Rather than banking on a second stimulus check, you can set things in motion for your finances in the short-term. While the government tries to figure out a solution, there are a few things you can do.
- Make sure you file for unemployment benefits. If you lost your job due to the coronavirus pandemic, file for unemployment benefits immediately. The sooner you file, the sooner you can start receiving a cash payout.
- Apply for forbearance or deferment programs. Those who can’t afford to make payments can look into forbearance or deferment programs.
- Stockpile cash. If you have little to no savings and still have a paycheck, boost your cash reserves.
- Basic living expenses takes priority. Make sure you can cover things like rent or a mortgage payment, utilities, gas, and food.
How to manage money, debt, and more
The current state of the economy, coupled with your money challenges, can make it difficult to find your way financially. Our How to Manage Debt guide was created to help you evaluate your options clearly and get on that path to a better financial future. Get started by downloading our free guide right now.
Editor’s Note, May 20, 2020: This post has been updated to reflect the latest actions by Congress regarding ongoing stimulus payments or other support.
- Need to Skip a Loan Payment Because of COVID-19? Talk to Your Lender Now (Freedom Debt Relief)
- Coronavirus Program Tracker: Government Benefits and Private Programs for Americans (Freedom Debt Relief)
- A Glimmer of Hope Emerges For A Second Stimulus Check (Forbes)