As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, millions of Americans are experiencing financial hardship. Around 18% of U.S. adults are behind on their rent, according to research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and 34% say they're having trouble affording household necessities.
Now, with government aid under the CARES Act set to expire at the end of December, millions of Americans are banking on more stimulus money for relief. Social Security recipients may also be eager for a second stimulus check. Retirees could see their savings take a hit if the market crashes again, and a little extra money in the bank never hurts.
Although there's no stimulus deal yet, here are a few things Social Security beneficiaries should know about the possibility of a second round of checks.
1. Congress may not reach a stimulus deal until 2021
There is some hope that Congress will reach an agreement relatively soon, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell noting in a press conference in early November that he'd like to see a deal before the end of the year. President-elect Joe Biden has also urged Congress to come together to pass new stimulus legislation soon.
That said, how much Congress will accomplish during this "lame duck" session before new legislators and Biden take office in January is still up in the air. With just a few weeks left in 2020, Congress will need to act quickly to reach an agreement.
President-elect Biden does have a stimulus plan that will include another round of checks, but that package cannot be voted on until after he's inaugurated on January 20, 2021. There's also no information yet about the size of those checks, though, or eligibility requirements under Biden's proposed plan.
2. You likely won't need to file taxes to be eligible
Because a stimulus package hasn't been passed yet, nobody knows for sure what the eligibility requirements will look like if there is a second check. However, if the new legislation is similar to the CARES Act, you likely won't need to have filed taxes to qualify for a check.
This is good news for retirees and Social Security beneficiaries, but keep in mind there could be other restrictions on eligibility. Under the CARES Act, individuals earning less than $75,000 per year and married couples with a joint income of less than $150,000 per year were eligible for checks. But high earners, as well as those who were claimed as dependents on someone else's tax return, were left out.
Lawmakers are butting heads about many aspects of a new stimulus package, but Democrats and Republicans mostly agree about the fact that Americans need a second round of stimulus checks. While the details have yet to be ironed out, if another round of checks passes, retirees will likely receive another payment if eligibility requirements are similar to those of the CARES Act.
3. Biden's stimulus plan includes boosting Social Security benefits
Under President-elect Biden's stimulus plan, Social Security recipients would receive an additional $200 per month in benefits during the pandemic. This is in addition to any stimulus checks that may pass as part of Biden's stimulus proposal.
Biden's plan also includes forgiving up to $10,000 in federal student loans, which could also help seniors. Nearly 3 million adults age 60 and older carry student loan debt, according to a report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau -- a number that has quadrupled since 2005. Student loan forgiveness could reduce seniors' expenses, helping every dollar stretch further in retirement.
Nobody knows for certain whether another round of stimulus checks is on the way. Although another relief bill may not pass until next year, it's smart to keep up-to-date on what's happening in Congress in the meantime. Stimulus checks can go a long way for many retirees, and right now another round of payments is still on the table.