As the IRS continues to distribute the pandemic’s third stimulus checks, for up to $1,400 each, the outcry is building for the government to provide Americans with a fourth payment — and possibly more.
Advocacy groups and dozens of congressional Democrats are stepping up the pressure on President Joe Biden to support regular cash payments until the COVID crisis is over. In a new report, one group calls stimulus checks “critical relief” that must continue.
Biden is being urged to include more direct aid in the $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan he’s now promoting. But the path to a fourth stimulus check is littered with potential obstacles. Here’s where things stand.
The arguments for more a fourth stimulus check
Around 20 Democratic U.S. senators, including Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden of Oregon and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have sent Biden a letter calling on him to put recurring relief payments in his Build Back Better infrastructure package.
“Families shouldn’t have to worry about whether they’ll have enough money to pay for essentials in the months ahead as the country continues to fight a global pandemic,” the senators write.
Most people used their recent $1,400 checks to pay for basics including food and bills, according to a new analysis of census data from the nonprofit Economic Security Project.
That’s a familiar story. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found last year’s first stimulus checks were largely spent on essentials, though some people saved or invested the money, or used it for other spending. That may have included buying affordable life insurance — demand for policies has surged amid the pandemic.
In their letter, the senators say almost 6 in 10 people thought the $1,400 payments would last them less than three months. Just one more direct payment would lift 6.6 million Americans out of poverty, according to a study by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.
Additional checks are vital, says the Economic Security Project, which supports guaranteed income. “This critical relief has played a leading role in helping Americans keep their heads above water during this recession,” the group says in its report.
A fourth stimulus check faces major obstacles
The battle to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID rescue package last month highlights the challenges of getting a fourth stimulus check approved.
The bill got no support from Republicans in Congress, who all voted against it. Even moderate Democrats were skeptical about the need for the legislation’s third round of direct payments.
Democratic leaders pushed the bill through using a budget maneuver that allowed for passage with simple majorities. They could try the same tactic with the infrastructure package, which features money for roads, bridges, water systems and senior care.
But with the Senate evenly split between the two parties, it would take opposition from only one Democratic senator to kill any proposal to add regular relief payments to the bill, or even just one more stimulus check.
Opponents of additional direct payments argue that there’s plenty of evidence the economy doesn’t require more stimulation: Vaccinations are increasing, hiring is improving, consumer confidence is rising and the stock market is hitting new highs.
It’s not clear whether President Biden is open to the idea of a fourth stimulus check. He hasn’t commented, and neither has his press secretary, Jen Psaki.
If you could use another stimulus check right now
If you need cash, waiting for action from Washington is — thankfully — not your only option. Here are some ways you might find some money on your own.
Cut the cost of your debt. Credit and debit card spending increased by 45% in March compared to the same month last year, says data from the Bank of America. If you’ve been relying on your credit card during the pandemic, a wave of expensive interest is inevitable. Rein in your debt — and pay it off more rapidly — by rolling your balances into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan.
Reduce your insurance bills. Because many people have been driving less frequently during the pandemic, some car insurance companies have been offering their customers special discounts. If your insurer isn’t one of them, it’s time to shop around for a better deal. You could save hundreds on homeowners insurance by shopping around and finding a lower price on that coverage, too.
Refinance your mortgage. If you’re a homeowner and haven’t compared rates and refinanced your loan in the last year, you could be missing out on some game-changing savings. Mortgage data and technology provider Black Knight recently said 11.1 million homeowners still have the potential to save an average $277 a month through a refi.
Grow some money by investing your spare change. You don’t have to be rich to earn some returns in the record-breaking stock market. A popular app helps you build a diversified portfolio just by using “spare change” from everyday purchases.