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Finally, after months of grueling negotiations and a last-minute delay, new coronavirus relief payments — "stimulus checks" — are on their way.
The IRS says $600 direct deposits have already begun arriving in consumers' bank accounts, and paper checks were to start going out on Wednesday.
But wait a minute, you say — $600? That's still just half as much as last time. What about President Donald Trump's call for $2,000 payments? It was his demand for the higher amount that led to the recent, dayslong delay.
Well, a plan to give you another $1,400 is now before Congress. The question is: Are you likely to see the additional money anytime soon?
The Senate holds the key to more cash
Consumers whose finances have been crushed by COVID have been hungry for more cash from Washington. They largely used the first batch to cover basics including groceries and utility bills, a survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found.
Some also invested the money, the survey said, or used it to pay for various other needs. That may have included buying affordable life insurance, as sales have surged this year in the shadow of the pandemic.
The U.S. House voted 275-134 on Monday to increase the payments to $2,000. Forty-four Republicans joined the Democrats — who control the House — to pass the bill.
But the legislation is now stuck in the Republican-run Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked quick approval of bigger checks and doesn't seem inclined to bring the matter to a formal vote.
"The Senate is not going to be bullied into rushing out more borrowed money into the hands of Democrats' rich friends who don't need the help," McConnell said Wednesday in a speech on the Senate floor.
Still, the president isn't giving up. "2000 ASAP!" Trump tweeted on Wednesday.
What if you were counting on more than $600?
Here are a few ideas to pull more money together on your own:
Trim your spending where you can. Drop 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.
Cut the cost of your debt. If you’ve been leaning on your credit cards during the coronavirus crisis, you’re probably piling on a lot of interest. Tame your credit card debt — and make it go away more quickly — by rolling your balances into a single debt consolidation loan at a lower interest rate.
Stop paying so much for insurance. As Americans have cut back on their driving this year, many car insurance companies have lowered their rates. If your insurer won’t cut you a break, it’s time to shop around for a better option. You also might save hundreds by comparing rates to find a better deal on your home insurance.
Swap your mortgage for a cheaper one. Mortgage rates are at all-time lows, and refinancing your existing home loan could provide huge 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.