Officials in Washington are moving slowly toward a deal that would put more money directly into your pocket as the country continues to struggle with the coronavirus pandemic.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (above) and his fellow Republicans have introduced a relief package that includes a repeat of those popular "stimulus checks" of up to $1,200 that most Americans got earlier this year. And this time, families would get bigger payouts.
The proposal is very similar to one the Democratic-controlled U.S. House passed a couple of months ago — but the payments issue has gotten tangled up in congressional bickering about beefed-up unemployment benefits, which expired on Friday.
Here's what we know about the timing of the next round of checks, direct deposits and debit cards.
How the second stimulus checks are shaping up
Like the last time, the government would provide the money to help Americans get by during the financial crisis, and stimulate the economy by encouraging people to spend. The Senate plan would largely use the same formula that determined how much you got in your first stimulus payment.
The IRS started distributing the original round of relief money in April; most people received $1,200, though the 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 cash at all.
People barely making ends meet during the pandemic spent the money to buy groceries or pay bills.
Others saw an opportunity to splurge, or used the cash for practical things like buying affordable life insurance to provide financial protection if family members lost a breadwinner to COVID-19.
Republicans want to offer more relief to households with kids in the next go-round. The first stimulus payments gave families $500 per child, but only up to age 16; the Senate bill includes $500 for each dependent, no matter how old.
But the proposal falls short of what the House has passed. The Democratic House bill would provide the full $1,200 for children, to a limit of three per household.
How long will it take to get your money?
The cash-for-kids difference between the House and Senate bills is one of many reasons the two sides of Capitol Hill are in negotiations over a final relief package.
They couldn't reach a compromise last week and allowed an unemployment benefits boost that millions of people have been depending on to lapse as of Friday.
The federal government had been giving out-of-work Americans an additional $600 a week, on top of their state benefits. The House voted to keep those emergency payments going through the end of January, but the Senate wants to cut the bonus benefits by $400, to $200 per week.
The next deadline for lawmakers is the upcoming Friday — Aug. 7 — when Congress is scheduled to break for its summer recess. Getting a deal sealed by that date could still allow the IRS to begin distributing new $1,200 stimulus payments by the end of August.
"The president’s preference is to make sure that we send out direct payments quickly so that in August, people get more money," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has told CNBC.
But if there's no agreement before the recess, the legislation would have to wait until early September, and stimulus checks wouldn't start going out until the end of September — at the earliest.
The bottom line
So here's the lowdown: You're likely to get another stimulus check, and it could arrive as early as Labor Day week. But you may have to wait until October or later.
If your budget is stretched thin and you really need that extra $1,200, here are a few ways to find some extra cash right now:
- Cut the cost of your debt. If you’ve got a wallet full of high-interest credit cards, roll those balances into a debt consolidation loan with a lower interest rate. You'll trim the cost of that debt and replace multiple monthly payments with just one.
- Put payments on pause. Lots of lenders, banks and utility companies have let customers put their payments on hold because of COVID-19. See if you can get a break from your bills. If your car insurance company doesn't want to helpful, it might be time to start looking around for a better one.
- Rein in your monthly spending. Consider losing your cable and switching to a less expensive streaming service. Resist the urge to have dinner delivered and prep your meals at home. And, use a cash-back card when you buy your groceries and other essentials, because that's like saving money each time you shop.
- Get a side hustle. Earn extra money by picking up a side gig, or sign 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.