It’s been more than two months since the third round of COVID stimulus checks began hitting Americans' bank accounts. For many U.S. households still having trouble paying the bills because of the pandemic, that $1,400 payment is probably long gone.
Millions of everyday Americans — and a growing number of influential lawmakers — say the government needs to continue providing direct relief until the crisis is no longer squeezing the economy.
Though the housing market is booming and some other economic numbers are looking up, unemployment rose last month and retail sales slowed.
The White House says stimulus checks "are not free," and that it's up to Congress to decide whether to pay out more of them. Will House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her fellow lawmakers give you a fourth stimulus check? Here's what we know.
More citizens and lawmakers press for a fourth check
Many Americans are eager for a fourth stimulus check.
Search traffic for the term "fourth stimulus check" remains high, according to Google Trends, and signatures continue to grow on an online petition pleading for more relief. More than 2.2 million people have now added their names.
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."
In the latest pitch from lawmakers themselves, seven members of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee have sent a letter to President Joe Biden, urging him to include direct payments in his new $1.8 trillion proposal to provide more help to families.
The lawmakers say the last $1,400 check was not enough to get households through the year. A fourth and fifth check, they 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," says the letter, signed last week. "They deserve to know they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.”
Checks unspent, White House unmoved
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.
And while some people have used their cash to invest in the sizzling stock market, others have bought nonessential but necessary things like clothing and affordable life insurance. Demand for those policies has surged during the pandemic.
At the same time, a new report reveals that more than 1 million stimulus checks have gone unspent.
IRS data obtained by the Boston Herald shows 1.24 million checks from last year's very first coronavirus aid package were never cashed.
When asked whether the Biden administration would back a fourth stimulus check, to keep providing Americans with support while the COVID crisis lingers, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki kicked 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 earlier this month.
What's happening in Congress
Given the cost, the most recent stimulus checks faced resistance from both Republicans and Democrats when Biden's pandemic rescue bill was debated in March.
Because Democrats control the House and Senate by the thinnest of margins, eligibility for the payments had to be "targeted" away from higher earners to keep moderate Senate Democrats in the fold.
If a new round of stimulus checks were to face simple majority votes in Congress — which is possible under the arcane budget process used for that last COVID relief bill — there's no guarantee of passage.
Still, congressional Democrats have been calling for recurring stimulus payments for the duration of the pandemic since early this year.
“We need to meet the moment by delivering monthly payments of $2,000,” Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar said in January when she and more than 50 other lawmakers sent Biden a letter urging him to support regular stimulus checks.
In March, more than 20 Democratic senators signed a similar letter.
So far there's been little response from Democratic leadership. Speaker Pelosi this month said passing Biden’s infrastructure and families plans was the "urgent" priority. She has said nothing about adding recurring payments, or just a fourth stimulus check, to either proposal.
If you need more stimulus now
For now, at least, a fourth stimulus check is looking doubtful. If you need more relief, you'll probably need to find it on your own — and you have several places to look:
Your insurance bills. Because people have been driving less during the pandemic, some car insurance companies have been offering discounts. If your insurer isn’t one of them, it may be time to shop around for a better deal. A little comparison shopping also might help you save hundreds on homeowners insurance.
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. Rates recently fell to their lowest levels in months, and mortgage data and technology provider Black Knight estimated that 13 million homeowners could save an average $283 a month by refinancing.
Your credit card bills. Credit cards may have been a life-saver during the pandemic, but the high interest costs can kill your budget. You might pay off your debts more quickly and affordably by rolling your balances into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan.
Your everyday spending. Cancel streaming services and any other monthly subscriptions you're not using. Resist the urge to order dinner deliveries, plan out home-cooked 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.
The stock market. (Really.) You don't need to be rich and don't need another stimulus check to get in on today’s record-breaking stock market action. A popular app helps you grow a diversified portfolio by using nothing more than "spare change."