The economic slowdown put in place to combat COVID-19 has not been kind to dividend paying stocks. Scores of companies have slashed their dividends, and with infection rates rising, chances are that the economic as well as health pains are not yet behind us.

Even with that backdrop, however, there are a handful of dividend paying companies that look capable of not only maintaining, but even potentially increasing their dividends. With that in mind, here are three attractive dividend stocks whose dividends could double over time.

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No. 1: A retailer well positioned for a recession

Dollar General (NYSE:DG) is in the business of offering lower-priced merchandise for people on tight budgets. If you only have a couple of dollars in your pocket and need toilet paper, you're not going to buy the giant club pack even if that club pack offers a better value per sheet. Instead, you're going to go to a Dollar General or similar store, get a couple dollars' worth of toilet paper, and hope you can scratch up a few more bucks before that supply runs out.

That relentless focus on serving shoppers on a tight budget means that Dollar General is well positioned to see its business weather a period of economic challenges. From a dividend perspective, the company pays $0.36 per share per quarter, a rate which consumes less than 20% of its trailing earnings. That dividend represents a 12% increase over its prior dividend, which shows that the company is willing to increase that payment.

Dollar General's dividends have increased at a decent clip since the company instituted them in 2015. If that trend continues, the company's dividend could conceivably double over the next several years.

No. 2: An insurance company with a good handle on the situation

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Allstate (NYSE:ALL) is an insurance company that's well known for its commercials with the tag line "Are you in good hands?"  One of the key facts to understand about insurance companies is that they're in the business of pricing risk. They have a pretty good handle on the risks they typically face, and when something unexpected happens, they rely on their balance sheets to cover the temporary disruption. Once that either passes or becomes the new normal, they reprice their risks and resume operations.

Allstate's balance sheet includes nearly $60 billion in bonds and over $300 million in cash on it, with a net equity position around $24 billion. That means a lot can go wrong for the company, above and beyond what it priced for, and it still would wind up OK. On top of that, it has handed back $1 billion to its policyholders during the COVID-19 pandemic, a sign that, if anything, it overpriced its insurance versus what its risk turned out to be during that particular crisis.

From a dividend perspective, Allstate offers its shareholders $0.54 per share per quarter, an 8% increase over last year's level. That dividend represents a payout below 20% of the company's trailing earnings, which means it has room to increase its payment and still keep its good hands protection in place for its customers. The dividend has more than doubled since being slashed during the financial meltdown, and if the company continues to reward its shareholders, it may double again over the next several years.

A company that does well with contactless purchases

Credit card titan Visa (NYSE:V) has a famous slogan that it's "everywhere you want to be." In the era of COVID-19 and increasing online purchases and contactless transactions, its ability to be everywhere helps it facilitate transactions on your behalf even in places you aren't. Online purchase? Use your Visa. In store? Hover your Visa just above the near-field communication device by the register. Pizza delivery? Contactless, with the pizza, delivery charge, and tip all paid for on your Visa.

Although Visa is a titan in the credit card business, it doesn't actually loan money out itself. Instead, it just facilitates the purchases and operates the payment network, and it makes its money off the fees it charges merchants to accept Visa cards. The issuing banks are the actual money lenders who take on the risks that the customers default on their payments. That makes Visa itself more resistant to the risks of recession than the banks that issue its cards are.

Visa's dividend is currently $0.30 per share per quarter, a rate that has more than doubled since its low point of $0.14 per share per quarter in 2015 and 2016. That dividend increased last November by 20% from $0.25,  yet it still represents only around 20% of the company's trailing earnings. That gives it room to increase its dividend as long as its business remains solid. Over time, it could even double.

Low payouts and resilient business models mark the path to higher dividends

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While Dollar General, Allstate, and Visa operate in different industries, two things tie them together to provide the possibility that each could double its dividend over time. First, they have business models that provide some resiliency when it comes to economic downturns. That gives them the opportunity to reward their shareholders with dividends even when the world is facing the uncertainty associated with a pandemic.

Second, they all have low payout ratios. That gives them the ability to reinvest in their business to drive the future growth needed to increase their dividends over time. It also gives them the flexibility to continue their dividends even if things turn temporarily tough for their businesses. For investors looking for stable income during crazy times and the possibility of growth over time, it's a tremendous confidence builder in a world where there are really no guarantees of success.

Put to the two factors together, and you have three dividend paying companies with attractive business models and the potential for their dividends to double over time. That's a combination worth celebrating.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.