For many Americans who received the recent third stimulus check, the money has been cashed and spent.
But that may not be the last relief payment. Momentum is building in Congress toward a fourth stimulus check — and possibly a fifth, maybe even more after that.
Growing numbers of lawmakers have come out in support of a plan that would provide additional cash throughout this year to help struggling households pay for groceries and other essentials, and avoid falling into poverty.
Millions have been living paycheck to paycheck or — even worse — on credit, and are looking for ways to stay current on bills and pay off high-interest debt
New push from powerful congressional panel
A new pitch for additional stimulus payments has been made to President Joe Biden in a letter signed by seven members of the influential House Ways and Means Committee.
Long considered the most powerful panel in Congress, Ways and Means is responsible for writing tax laws and essentially controlling the government's purse strings. The letter urges Biden to include direct payments in his proposed $1.8 trillion "American Families Plan," which he unveiled in late April.
The lawmakers say the last $1,400 check was not enough to get households through the year. A fourth and fifth stimulus check, the signers argue, could keep an additional 12 million people out of poverty.
"The pandemic has served as a stark reminder that families and workers need certainty in a crisis," the letter says. "They deserve to know they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads."
In a census survey, most people who gave an answer said they spent their third stimulus checks on food, housing (rent or mortgage payments), utilities or paying down debt.
While some used their stimulus payments to invest in the high-flying stock market — a trend that has been widely reported on — others spent the money on nonessential, but necessary, things including affordable life insurance. Sales of those policies have surged during the pandemic.
At least 83 lawmakers now want more 'stimmies'
Even before the last COVID-19 rescue bill was passed in March, Democrats were calling for stimulus payments that would last as long as the pandemic endures.
“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 a January letter signed by 55 of her colleagues.
Then in March, 21 Democatic senators called on Biden to back recurring direct payments for the duration of the pandemic.
Calls from the public have grown louder, as well.
A Change.org petition pleading for Congress to provide $2,000 payments for adults and $1,000 payments for children and to continue regular checks for the duration of the COVID crisis has now been signed by more than 2.2 million people. To be sure, lawmakers often respond to public pressure.
If your 2021 stimulus check has been long spent and you’re still facing rising amounts of debt, there are ways to pay off those bills more quickly, including by rolling them into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan.
A fourth stimulus check: Will they or won’t they?
While millions have their fingers tightly crossed that President Biden will agree to a fourth round of stimulus checks, the White House has said it's essentially up to the folks at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue to make the next move.
"We’ll see what members of Congress propose, but those are not free," Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, referring to the cost of supplying more checks.
A fourth round of direct payments would have to be approved by the House and the Senate before landing on Biden’s desk. And that's not necessarily a slam dunk, as the president's party holds both houses of Congress by the super-thin margins.
The third stimulus check gave some of the more moderate Senate Democrats heartburn. To keep them in the fold, Democratic leaders agreed to "target" those payments away from households with higher incomes.
Meanwhile, Congress is facing other priorities, and the administration would like to see meaningful progress made.
Right now, legislation to address U.S. infrastructure — roads, bridges, broadband internet and more — is top of mind on Capitol Hill.
What if you can’t wait for Washington and need help now?
If you’re worrying about how you'll get by for the rest of the year, here are some ways to cut costs and maybe earn extra cash to help with bills.
Got a mortgage? Consider refinancing into a lower interest rate to slash your monthly payments. Mortgage rates remain historically low, and refinancing your existing home loan could reap big savings. Studies have shown getting quotes from at least five lenders will help you find the best rate on a new mortgage.
Car insurance companies have been doling out discounts to drivers who have been using their cars less because of COVID. If yours won’t offer savings, shop around for a better deal. And while you’re at it, comparing rates on homeowners insurance could save you hundreds of dollars a year.
Finally, it doesn't take much money or effort to earn returns in the record-shattering stock market. One popular app allows you to build a portfolio merely by investing your "spare change" from everyday purchases.