New COVID stimulus checks are on the way for some US workers
After a long year and a half, many Americans are hopeful that the worst economic pain from the pandemic is behind them. But some of the hardest-hit workers with jobs that are considered essential are still reeling.
Many of them had to dip into their own funds to pay for protective equipment or child care. Now, to assist with those expenses, the government intends to offer financial relief through what are essentially targeted stimulus checks.
The payments will be made via a new $700 million Biden administration program. You may qualify for cash that could help you cover household bills or pay down debt that has piled up during the pandemic.
Money for workers who have kept the US fed
People who work on farms and in meat-packing plants can receive money being made available through the Farm and Food Workers Relief grant program, announced earlier this month.
Grocery workers get some of the money too, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says. While the $20 million set aside for supermarket workers is relatively small, perhaps more money is on the way because the government will use at least some of the award to test the best ways to reach those workers in the future.
Americans who qualify for the payments work in food-related industries where sheltering in place or working from home wasn’t an option.
Unlike the more conventional stimulus checks, the IRS isn't distributing the new ones. Instead, state agencies, nonprofits and tribal entities will apply for funds, then distribute the money to the workers.
The checks can be worth hundreds of dollars
Farmworkers and meatpackers are entitled to up to $600 for pandemic health and safety-related costs, including personal protective equipment, child care and expenses related to testing or quarantining, the USDA says.
"Our farmworkers, meatpacking workers, and grocery workers overcame unprecedented challenges and took on significant personal risk to ensure Americans could feed and sustain their families throughout the pandemic,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a news release.
"They deserve recognition for their resilience and financial support for their efforts to meet personal and family needs while continuing to provide essential services," Vilsack says.
The money is critical for food workers who endured deadly outbreaks at meat plants early in the pandemic and still face health risks during the Delta variant surge, says Marc Perrone, president of United Food and Commercial Workers International.
"Across the country, meatpacking workers have had to use their own money to pay for personal protective equipment to stay safe on the job, shoulder the burden of increased childcare costs, take on expenses from COVID-19 testing and quarantining, and much more."
Other pandemic relief is still available
This new round of assistance is narrowly targeted. If you're among the millions who are still struggling, and you're not a farm, meat-packing or grocery worker, other pandemic programs that are still open could give you a financial lift.
The expanded child tax credit is providing families with up to $3,600 per kid through a combination of advanced payments now and tax refunds next year. But there are only a few weeks left to sign up for the money, so parents will want to act fast.
More than $46 billion in emergency rental assistance was made available by the last two stimulus bills. As of the end of August, only 11% of the allotted funds had been distributed.
Another $10 billion was set aside to help homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages.
What to do if you need a little more stimulus ASAP
Don't see a program that might help you? Whether your budget is feeling a bit tight these days or you could just use a little extra spending money, you have a few options to create your own stimulus.
Deal with your debt. Credit may be convenient, but carrying a balance on your card will eventually bury you in expensive interest. Tackle the problem by folding your balances into a single debt consolidation loan. With a lower interest rate, you’ll not only slash the cost of your debt, but you’ll also be able to pay it off faster.
Trade in your mortgage. If you own your home and haven't refinanced in the past year, you're long overdue. Nearly half the homeowners who have taken advantage of the pandemic's historically low mortgage rates are now saving $300 a month or more, according to a recent Zillow survey. Thirty-year mortgage rates are under 3% again, so check out some refinance offers to see how much you might save.
Cut your insurance costs. You might be overpaying by hundreds of dollars for car insurance this year if you haven't looked around for a better rate lately. A little comparison shopping could help you find a much cheaper policy. And you can use the same strategy when the time comes to renew or buy homeowners insurance.
Turn your pennies into a portfolio. Even if you don't have much money, you can still earn returns from today’s red-hot stock market. A popular app can help you invest your "spare change" from everyday purchases, turning them into a diversified portfolio in no time.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.