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How Much Will Stimulus Checks Help the Average American Family?

By Christy Bieber – May 12, 2020 at 7:00AM

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Unfortunately, It's not very much.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act stimulus checks were meant to provide a short-term lifeline to families facing financial pain amid the current lockdown.

Unfortunately, the checks valued at $1,200 per adult and $500 per eligible dependent child aren't likely to go very far or provide nearly the support most people need. 

The COVID-19 stimulus payment is a drop in the bucket for the average American, replacing far less than two full weeks of income.

In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated median weekly earnings for full-time workers were $957 in the first quarter of 2020. That means a $1,200 stimulus check would be equivalent to 6.27 days worth of wages (assuming a five-day workweek) in the median U.S. household. 

Broken white piggy bank with coins spilling out.

Image source: Getty Images.

It pays for less than a month of spending for the typical household

Stimulus checks not only replace only a few days' worth of wages, but they also do little to meet the monthly spending needs of American families. 

The mean expenditure for the average U.S. household with 2.5 people in it comes in at about $5,102 per month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet, a married couple with one dependent child would get a maximum stimulus payment of $2,900. That means the check would cover their spending for just over half the month. 

Stimulus checks don't do nearly enough

Millions of families have already missed well over 6.25 days of work and the Great Lockdown has dragged on for longer than the 17 or so days of spending the stimulus payment could cover.

With COVID-19 payments that are so small relative to spending and income needs, it's no wonder the majority of Americans have indicated they'll need more stimulus money within three months. 

And some Americans have been left out entirely, receiving no stimulus funds at all. These include college students and disabled adults who are claimed as dependents, as well as many families with mixed immigration status.

Other sources of aid are available, but imperfect

COVID-19 stimulus money isn't the only relief available to struggling Americans. The CARES Act also provided for expanded unemployment benefits, allowing some people to claim who wouldn't normally be eligible and providing an additional $600 in weekly income on top of customary state maximums.

But some states still require workers to go the first week without benefits, even though the federal government has incentivized waiving this waiting week by promising to cover 100% of the costs. And not everyone qualifies for unemployment, even after the CARES Act loosened eligibility requirements. 

Entrepreneurs and business owners may also be able to take advantage of newly created programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Grants from the Small Business Administration. However, funds already ran out for both and while more money has been authorized, some experts believe it will again run out before the demand is fulfilled.

Still, if you're like most people and your COVID-19 stimulus payment did little to help you cover your costs or replace your lost wages, you should look into these benefits ASAP to see what's available that could help you make ends meet. 

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