It’s now been two months since the third round of COVID stimulus checks began hitting Americans' bank accounts. That’s a long time to get by on $1,400, especially if you’re still out of work because of the pandemic.
Milliions of Americans say the government needs to continue providing direct relief payments until the crisis is no longer throttling the economy. That group includes everyday folks — and some of the country’s most influential politicians.
The White House says stimulus checks "are not free," and that it's up to Congress to decide whether to provide more of them. Will House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow lawmakers give you a fourth stimulus check? Here's what we know.
More than 2 million petition for a fourth check
Many Americans are eager for a fourth stimulus check.
Search traffic for the term "fourth stimulus check" has been peaking, according to Google Trends, and more than 2.15 million people have signed an online petition calling for more relief.
The Change.org petition asks Congress "to support families with a $2,000 payment for adults and a $1,000 payment for kids immediately, and continuing regular checks for the duration of the crisis."
The campaign was started by Stephanie Bonin, a struggling restaurant owner in Denver. With no money coming in because of the pandemic, Bonin and her employees are facing the rather grim prospect of getting through the next several weeks with little to no income.
"For our team and other Americans who can claim unemployment, even the maximum payments will not be enough for most people to continue paying their bills — and avoid slipping into poverty," Bonin writes.
"But supplying Americans with monthly support until they can get back on their feet can save our communities from financial ruin," she adds.
The word from the White House
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the majority of stimulus money is still being spent on basic necessities, including food, rent, mortgage payments and utilities.
Though some people have been using the cash to invest in the white-hot stock market, others have bought nonessential but necessary goods like clothing and affordable life insurance. Demand for those policies has soared during the pandemic.
When asked whether the Biden administration would support a fourth stimulus check, to keep providing Americans with support while the COVID crisis lingers, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki punted the question to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.
"We'll see what members of Congress propose, but those (checks) are not free," Psaki said last week.
The government has already spent approximately $5.3 trillion on COVID-19 support for individuals and businesses, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
Now, Biden is focused on trying to get another $4 trillion in spending passed by Congress, for infrastructure projects and a "families plan" that, among other things, would extend the upcoming monthly payments to parents under an expansion of the child tax credit.
What will Congress do?
Democrats in Congress have been calling for stimulus payments that would last the entirety of the pandemic since before the last COVID-19 aid bill was passed in March.
“The American people are counting on us to deliver transformative change, and we need to meet the moment by delivering monthly payments of $2,000,” Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar wrote President Biden in January. Her letter also was signed by dozens of other lawmakers.
In March, more than 20 Democratic senators signed a similar letter.
But there's been little response from Democratic leadership. While addressing April's lackluster jobs numbers last week, Speaker Pelosi said passing Biden’s infrastructure and families plans is the "urgent" priority. She has said nothing about adding recurring payments, or just a fourth stimulus check, to either proposal.
Because of the cost, the latest stimulus checks faced resistance from both Republicans and Democrats when the most recent pandemic relief bill was debated in March. To win over moderate Senate Democrats, eligibility for the payments was "targeted" away from higher earners.
If a new round of stimulus checks were to face simple majority votes in the House and Senate — which is possible under the arcane budget process used for the last coronavirus rescue bill — there's no guarantee of passage.
If you need more stimulus now
There are several ways to find money on your own while you wait for a definitive answer from Washington about another stimulus check.
Refinance your mortgage. If you’re a homeowner and haven't refinanced your loan in the last year, you could be missing out on some game-changing savings. Now that the average rate on 30-year fixed mortgages is under 3% again, mortgage data and technology provider Black Knight says 13 million homeowners have an opportunity to save an average of $283 a month with a refi.
Dominate your debt. Credit cards may have been a life-saver during the pandemic, but the high interest costs can really beat up your budget. You can pay off your debts more quickly by rolling all of your balances into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan.
Reduce your insurance costs. Because people have been driving less during the pandemic, some car insurance companies have been offering their customers discounts. If your insurer isn’t one of them, it may be time to find yourself a better deal. A little comparison shopping could help you save hundreds on homeowners insurance, too.
Find creative ways to save. Cancel streaming services and any other monthly subscriptions you're not using. Resist the urge to order dinner deliveries, plan out homecooked meals, and go to the grocery store with a list you'll stick to. And, download a free browser add-on that will automatically hunt for better prices and coupons whenever you shop online.
Grow some money in the stock market. You don't need another stimulus check to get in on today’s record-breaking stock market action. A popular app allows you to invest in a diversified portfolio by using nothing more than your "spare change" from everyday purchases.