(Money Wise) – It has been less than two weeks since Americans started getting their second coronavirus relief payments — “stimulus checks” — and the anticipation about a third phase is already heating up.
President-elect Joe Biden has called the current $600 round of cash a “down payment,” and early last week he said $2,000 checks would go out “immediately” if his party took control of both houses of Congress.
The Democrats will indeed run the House and Senate starting late this month, owing to some election results last week. In the days ahead, Biden plans to lay out a proposal for a massive new COVID relief package, including fresh direct payments to Americans.
How fast is “immediately”? Here’s what we can currently say about the likelihood and timing of third stimulus checks.
More relief for families ‘now’
Biden told reporters at a briefing on Friday that one of his first priorities is pulling together a plan to spend trillions more money to bolster the economy, as the virus rages.
“We need to provide more immediate relief for families and businesses now,” he said. “People are really, really, really in desperate shape.”
Many struggling consumers have been eager for additional government relief. Americans largely spent their first stimulus payments on basics like groceries and utility bills, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said.
Biden is expected to present more details on his proposal in the coming week. But he’s been talking about moving rapidly to get $2,000 into the hands of Americans.
“That money will go out the door immediately to help people who are in real trouble,” he promised on Monday of last week, while campaigning for Democrats running in a pair of U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia.
So, what’s the possible timing on 3rd checks?
Biden’s party won both seats — which will flip control of the Senate to the Democrats and give them power over both sides of Capitol Hill. That could make it easier for Biden’s proposals, like new stimulus checks, to become reality.
It could be eaiser, but the Democrats’ new Senate majority is so thin that Biden will need every Democratic vote. And West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has told The Washington Post he “absolutely” opposes giving most Americans $2,000.
But some Republicans senators, including Missouri’s Josh Hawley, previously supported the idea of $2,000 stimulus checks.
How quickly could new payments go out? Nothing can happen, legislation-wise, before late January. Biden and the new vice president, Kamala Harris, will be sworn in on Jan. 20, and the new senators from Georgia may not take their seats until Jan. 22 — the state’s deadline for certifying the runoff results.
That all means if Congress and the incoming Biden administration can come together on fresh relief money, you’re not likely to see anything until February, at the earliest.
And note that while Biden and others have talked about pushing out “$2,000” stimulus checks, it’s unclear at this point whether they’re talking about new payments of $2,000 — or $1,400, to be added to the recent $600.
What if you need more than $600 right now?
If the coronavirus is squeezing your family finances and you need more than the latest $600 checks, here are a few ideas to pull together money on your own:
- Scour your budget for savings. 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 and coupons.
- Shrink the cost of your debt. If you’ve been leaning on your credit cards during the COVID crisis, you’re probably piling up a mountain of interest. Rein in your credit card debt — and make it disappear more quickly — by rolling your balances into a single debt consolidation loan at a lower interest rate.
- Stop overpaying for insurance. As Americans have cut back on their driving in the pandemic, many car insurance companies have cut their rates. But if your insurer won’t give you a break, shop around for a better option. Also, save hundreds on your homeowners insurance by comparing rates to find a better deal on that coverage.
- Refinance your mortgage and slash your payments. Mortgage rates are the lowest off all time, and refinancing your existing home loan could provide major 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.