Legislation to give you a third COVID stimulus check — for up to $1,400 this time — is sprinting through Congress, clearing hurdles like an Olympian. And the finish line is in sight.
A powerful committee in the House gave its approval last week, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (pictured, with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer) has revealed that lawmakers have a looming deadline that they're trying to beat.
Congressional leaders already have the new round of direct payments moving along a fast track, but there's a report the process may be kicked into an even speedier gear.
Relief could be just weeks away if you need the money to help deal with bills or pay down debt. Here's the latest on when to expect your next stimulus check.
Where things stand on the new stimulus checks
The new, $1,400 payments are part of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue package. It's packed with a wide variety of other aid, including $400 a week in bonus unemployment benefits.
The Democrats who control Congress have Biden's plan zooming in the fast lane using a special process that would allow it to pass with simple majorities — meaning with no Republican support, if it comes to that.
But one possible roadblock under that scenario is West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who has said only the neediest Americans should get the full $1,400. Democrats hold the Senate by a razor-thin margin and will need every vote from their side, including Manchin's.
The current legislation would phase out payments for Americans making over $75,000 a year, same as with the earlier stimulus checks. Manchin has preferred a $50,000 threshold and says he wants proof that people making $75,000 are truly in need.
Last spring, most recipients spent their first $1,200 stimulus check on essential needs, including groceries and rent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has said.
A portion of the cash also was used for saving and investing, a bureau survey found, or for other, unspecified things — possibly to buy affordable life insurance. Demand for life insurance policies has surged amid COVID.
So, when are you likely to get another stimulus check?
A bill including the fresh stimulus checks was passed last week by the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, one of the panels that control the government's purse strings. A vote by the full House is expected next week.
After the House, the action shifts to the Senate. If Democratic leaders can keep Manchin on board, they may try to throttle up even further by sending the legislation directly to the Senate floor, with no committee votes, according to the Washington newsletter Punchbowl News.
Speaker Pelosi says the goal is to have a bill on the president's desk in time to keep millions of Americans from losing unemployment money on March 14. That's when an existing round of bonus benefits is due to expire.
If everything goes according to plan — and Biden signs the bill during the first part of March — the IRS may need just a few days to start pumping out stimulus check payments again. And that means you could receive your next infusion of cash as soon as the middle part of March.
What if you need more stimulus check money right away?
Of course, that timing is still at least a month away. If you can't wait and need more money immediately, here are a few ways you might find cash in the meantime.
Cut the cost of your debt. Have you been leaning hard on your credit cards to get through the COVID crisis? If so, the interest is probably costing you a ton. Get a better handle on your debt — and make it disappear sooner — by sweeping your balances into a single debt consolidation loan at lower interest.
Shrink your insurance bills. Because many people have been driving less during the pandemic, car insurance companies have doled out discounts. But what if yours isn't giving you a break? That's easy — just shop around for a better deal. You also might save hundreds on your homeowners insurance by comparing rates to find a lower price on that coverage.
Refinance your mortgage (if you've got one) and slash your payments. If you own a home and haven't refinanced your mortgage in the last year, you're overdue. Rates have been the lowest ever, so refinance your existing home loan and reap big savings. An estimated 16.7 million U.S. homeowners could reduce their monthly house payments by an average $303 through a refi, according to mortgage tech and data provider Black Knight.
What if you're at risk of missing out on a stimulus check this time?
Congress is moving ahead with the same income limits on stimulus checks as before — meaning if you got a full payment last time, you'll get one again. But that could change.
If it turns out your income may disqualify you from receiving a $1,400 check, there are a couple of things you can do:
File your 2020 taxes pronto. Log into a good tax software program and submit your 2020 return as quickly as you can. The IRS will base your eligibility for a stimulus check on your most recent tax return, so if your income dropped in 2020 because of the pandemic, getting that info in front of the tax agency may improve your chances of receiving a payment.
Trim your budget and "make your own" stimulus check. Look for creative ways to save, to squeeze another $1,400 out of your finances. For example, maybe it's time to say goodbye to streaming services or other monthly subscriptions you've forgotten about and no longer use. Have a hobby or special skill? Turn it into a side hustle to bring in extra income. And, download a free browser extension that will automatically scour for better prices and coupons whenever you shop online.