Stimulus Checks 2021: What You Need to Know [UPDATED]

With two stimulus checks under our belts, planning is currently underway for President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief package. If passed, it would supply Americans with a third round of stimulus checks.  

A quick recap—the first stimulus checks made the rounds in April 2020. Individuals with an income of up to $75,000 received $1,200. Meanwhile, married couples who made up to $150,000 received $2,400, along with $500 per child. The second wave of stimulus checks, coming in at only $600, arrived in December 2020 and January 2021. Married couples received $1,200, with an additional $600 per child.

With almost a full year between the last stimulus check over $1,000 and now, people’s finances are suffering. In a poll published by NPR in September 2020, 63% of those polled in Houston, TX faced serious financial issues due to the pandemic. Additionally, 57% of those polled reported that someone in their household either lost their job, were furloughed or had their hours or wages reduced since the pandemic started.  

Needless to say, people need financial relief. And while it looks like a stimulus relief package will probably pass, there are a few details still on the table. The biggest points up for debate? Who should get a stimulus check in 2021—and how much they’ll get. 

Who Will Get a Stimulus Check?

President Biden has been adamant that the households that qualify should receive a $1,400 stimulus check. Based on the most recent proposal under consideration, households earning $75,000 or lower would receive $1,400 checks. Meanwhile, married couples who earn $150,000 or less would receive $2,800, along with $1,400 per child. 

While it looks like this plan will stick, it’s worth noting that a group of Republicans have created a plan that’ll send $1,000 checks to individuals earning $40,000 or less and couples earning up to $80,000. This relief package targets lower-income households while leaving out a lot more people than President Biden’s plan.

When You Can Expect Your Check

In order to speed up President Biden’s stimulus relief package, Democrats are using a budget reconciliation process. In a nutshell, this would allow Democrats to approve the stimulus package without Republican votes. While the stimulus package is being sped up, a few more details have to be ironed out before the package is drafted and voted on.

All that to say—it could take several weeks for you to get your $1,400 stimulus check. Even when the package is passed, it still has to be signed by President Biden and sent out by the IRS. So be on the lookout, but know that you’ll likely have to wait at least a few more weeks. It is worth noting, however, the House is planning to get the stimulus package approved in the next two weeks.

How Should You Spend Your Stimulus Check?

Ultimately, how you should spend your check is up to you. Everyone is in a different financial situation, so you might spend your check differently than others. But if you’re wondering how to spend your third check, you have a few options:

  • Use it to cover the basics. If you’ve been struggling to pay for your basic needs, like groceries and rent, you can use your stimulus check to cover the bills. 
  • Pay down debt. The past year has taken a toll on a lot of our finances. If you’ve racked up debt in 2020, you could use your stimulus check to help pay down some debt
  • Put it in savings. It never hurts to save some money for a rainy day. You can put some or all of your stimulus check in a high-yield savings account until you need it.
  • Donate it. If you’re doing pretty well financially, you might want to consider donating your stimulus check to a good cause or to support small businesses.

Again, you should take a serious look at your finances and your needs before you decide exactly how to put your stimulus check to use.

The Next Round of Stimulus Checks Will Probably Happen

As of right now, things are looking pretty good for the third round of stimulus checks. But who qualifies and who doesn’t could still be on the table. In the meantime, if you need some financial guidance, take a look at our COVID financial resource guide.

Update: The Senate approved the newest COVID relief package on Saturday, with a few minor changes. Firstly, the federal hourly minimum wage increase was removed from the bill. It looks like a $15 minimum wage is off the table for now.

Unemployment benefits were also reduced. While the House bill planned on extending $400 in benefits weekly until August 29th, Senate reduced unemployment to $300. Under the Senate bill, unemployment benefits will be extending through September 6th

Additionally, families who are eligible will receive $1,400 for each dependent—both for children and adults. 

Wondering when you’ll get your stimulus check? The House will vote on the Senate’s version of the bill this week, and President Biden is anticipated to sign the package shortly afterwards. You could get your stimulus check within days after President Biden signs. 

Update, March 11: The House has officially approved the latest round of stimulus checks and President Biden is expected to sign the relief bill this afternoon. According to White House secretary Jen Psaki, people could start seeing their stimulus check directly deposited as soon as this weekend. 

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