President Joe Biden says the third round of stimulus checks, currently being distributed by the IRS, provided a financial lifeline to people who are still struggling as the pandemic maintains its grip on American life.
"We’ve already sent more than 160 million checks out the door. It’s making a difference," the president told Congress in his big speech last Wednesday night. "For many people, it’s making all the difference in the world."
Does that mean Biden wants the relief to continue? Lawmakers, advocates and millions of citizens are urging him to have the tax agency send a fourth stimulus check, and maybe additional ones beyond that.
Here's where things stand.
Biden: Stimulus checks 'put food on the table'
In his speech, the president cited a few examples of how the latest stimulus checks, for up to $1,400 each, have been providing critical support for American households.
He said a grandmother in Virginia told him the cash allowed her to run her granddaughter to the eye doctor, something they'd been putting off for months.
"A single mom in Texas who wrote me, she said she couldn’t work," Biden said, sharing another anecdote. "She said the relief check put food on the table and saved her and her son from eviction from their apartment."
That's been a familiar story all along. The first stimulus checks, sent one year ago, were largely spent on basic necessities like groceries and rent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found.
Some people have been able to save or invest the money, the bureau has said, or use it for other spending that likely has included buying affordable life insurance. Demand for policies has surged amid the pandemic.
The push for a fourth stimulus check — and more
The audience for Biden's speech included members of his own party who've been telling him the need for stimulus checks isn't over.
The president faces intense pressure from dozens of congressional Democrats, as well as from various advocacy groups, to consider a fourth stimulus check — as the first of recurring cash payments until the pandemic finally loosens its grip on the U.S. economy.
"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," said a letter sent to Biden in recent weeks from more than 20 U.S. senators who want to see regular payments until the crisis ends.
Additionally, more than 2 million citizens have now signed an online petition calling for new $2,000 stimulus checks for adults and $1,000 payments for kids, followed by regular checks for as long as the pandemic lasts.
"We need immediate checks and recurring payments so that we can keep our heads above water," the petition reads. "Congress needs to make sure that we won’t be left financially ruined for doing our part to keep the country healthy."
Will Biden come out in favor of a fourth check?
Biden's positive words about stimulus checks in his speech to Congress may suggest he's open to providing another round, but so far he hasn't addressed that issue directly.
Instead, he's been proposing other relief. For example, he wants to stretch out a temporary expansion of the child tax credit that will give families monthly payments — sort of another kind of stimulus checks — for up to $300 per child during the second half of this year.
He told Congress he wants to extend the new credit at least through the 2025. "That will help more than 65 million children and help cut child care poverty in half," Biden said.
It's possible he's stayed away from addressing questions about a fourth stimulus check because he wants to avoid political fireworks. Republicans and even some congressional Democrats questioned whether the third direct payments were necessary, and eligibility was "targeted" away from higher earners.
The president already is facing other potentially major battles: He's seeking approval from Congress for nearly $4 trillion in new spending, for an infrastructure package and his "families plan," and he wants to pay for those fresh parts of his agenda by raising taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans.
If you could use another stimulus check right now
You don't have to wait for Biden and Congress if you need more cash to get you to the other side of the coronavirus crisis. Here are some ways you might find money on your own.
Cut the cost of your debt. Credit card spending has been on the rise during the pandemic. If you've been relying heavily on your plastic, the interest is bound to get expensive. Take control of your debt — and pay it off more rapidly — by rolling all of your balances into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan.
Reduce your insurance costs. Because many people have been driving less frequently during the pandemic, many car insurance companies have been handing out discounts. If your insurer has been stingy, it's time to find yourself a better deal. A little comparison shopping could help you save hundreds on homeowners insurance, too.
Refinance your mortgage. If you’re a homeowner and haven't refinanced your loan in the last year, you could be missing out on big savings. The typical mortgage rate is under 3% again, and mortgage data and technology provider Black Knight recently said 13 million homeowners still have an opportunity to save an average $283 a month through a refi.
Grow your spare change in the stock market. Stocks have been setting new records, and you don't have to be rich to get in on that action. A popular app allows you to invest in a diversified portfolio just by using "spare change" from everyday purchases.