The sun appears to have set on the possibility of a fourth stimulus check.
The economy has been showing signs of recovery, the COVID delta rampage has not led to new lockdowns that would throttle Americans' incomes, and Washington has turned its attention to other matters, including Afghanistan and a bipartisan infrastructure bill.
Even so, many people are still struggling to pay bills and deal with debt because of the pandemic, and an online petition calling for regular direct payments is closing in on its goal of 3 million signatures.
But another reason a fourth check is unlikely is the billions and billions of dollars in pandemic stimulus money that's still available to families, renters and even homeowners. You may qualify for some of that relief.
Stimulus checks for families
Through the end of this year, the IRS is sending monthly stimulus payments to families under a temporary expansion of the child tax credit that was part of the last COVID relief bill.
Households can receive up to $3,600 for each child under 6 years old and a maximum $3,000 for kids ages 6 to 17. Half the money can be collected through the direct payments, and the rest can come via tax refunds next year.
When the family stimulus checks started going out in July, the monthly payouts were $300 or $250 per child, depending on the age. Households who've found themselves left out can still catch up — and collect larger payments to make up for what they've missed.
If you have kids 17 or younger and have not gotten any of the checks so far, you should submit a 2020 tax return immediately — even if you don’t normally file one.
Once the IRS has an accurate idea of your income and has confirmed your address and bank account information, you can start receiving the cash.
Emergency help for renters
Between the two most recent COVID-19 relief bills, $46.6 billion was set aside to help millions of Americans behind on their rent because of pandemic-related job losses, layoffs and wage cuts.
And, most of the money is still available. The Treasury Department revealed recently that only 11% had made its way to renters.
While that's a jaw-dropping statistic, it becomes more believable when you consider the funds are being distributed by almost 500 state and local housing agencies, each with its own capacity, technology and staffing limitations.
Another issue is that the process of applying for assistance has, in the Treasury’s opinion, been too complicated. The department has directed local bodies to streamline the application process, in hopes of speeding things up for renters in need.
The program is quite generous. In some states, it covers a full year's worth of rent and up to three months in future rent. That could go a long way toward keeping a roof over your head now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ended the Biden administration's national moratorium on evictions several weeks early.
Billions for struggling homeowners
You wouldn’t know it from the way home prices have exploded, or from the massive amounts people have been saving by refinancing their mortgages. But many homeowners are struggling to make their mortgage payments, and have been since the beginning of the pandemic.
If you're having trouble staying current on your home loan, and anxiety is setting in — because you might be headed for delinquency or even foreclosure — there's a stimulus program you can tap into.
The COVID rescue package from March created a homeowner assistance fund totaling $10 billion. A minimum $50 million has been appropriated for each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
To be eligible for mortgage relief, you must provide evidence that:
You are under financial stress due to COVID-19.
You earn no more than 150% of your area’s median income.
Your loan balance doesn't exceed $548,250.
You can apply for the homeowners assistance through your state housing agency.
Find other relief close by
There’s no need to panic if you aren’t eligible for the family, renter or homeowner stimulus programs. You have plenty of tools you can use to give yourself some financial breathing room.
If you’re a homeowner and haven’t refinanced your mortgage in the past year, you could be missing out on game-changing savings. Zillow recently found that almost half the homeowners who refinanced between April 2020 and April 2021 are now saving $300 or more each month. Today’s mortgage rates are even lower than what many of those homeowners were offered.
If you’re carrying multiple credit card balances and other high-interest debt, sweep them into a single debt consolidation loan. The lower interest rate will shrink the total cost of your debt and help you pay it off faster.
Prices can be all over the place when you shop online, but you can avoid paying too much by downloading a free browser add-on that automatically hunts for lower prices and coupons.
Finally, you don't need much money to earn extra income in today's sizzling stock market. A popular app lets you invest in a diversified portfolio using little more than "spare change" left over from your everyday purchases.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.