by Maurie Backman | Aug. 18, 2020
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Americans are desperate for more relief, but lawmakers seem to be stalling.
Millions of Americans have been grappling with income loss since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. In late March, the CARES Act was passed into law, and one of its most important provisions was a one-time $1,200 stimulus payment that went out by direct deposit, check, or debit card.
Countless Americans have used their stimulus cash to pay bills, pad their savings accounts, and buy themselves some financial breathing room. But at this point, much of that stimulus cash has already been spent, and the public needs more.
Lawmakers seemingly agree. Both Democrats and Republicans have proposed relief packages that call for a second round of direct payments.
In May, Democrats rolled out the HEROES Act, which called for $1,200 in stimulus cash per eligible adult plus $1,200 per child or dependent, for a maximum of three individuals per household. In July, Republicans proposed the HEALS Act, which called for $1,200 in stimulus cash per adult plus $500 per child or dependent, with no per-household limit.
While the specifics of these proposals differ a bit, it's clear that both sides agree that more stimulus money is needed. So what's the holdup?
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A second round of stimulus payments can't go out to the public until lawmakers come to an agreement on a second relief package and sign it into law. And right now, lawmakers are deadlocked on a number of key issues, with boosted unemployment being a major one. As such, it could be weeks until an official relief deal is reached, after which it could take another few weeks to get stimulus money into the hands of those who really need it.
Thankfully, the IRS already has a system in place for sending out stimulus cash, so once a deal is signed into law, that money could go out within 21 days. But the IRS can't act without a signed relief package in place.
If you're eagerly awaiting a second stimulus check, at this point, there's a good chance you won't see that cash until late September or even October, so you may need to make some strategic moves while you wait.
First, if there are specific bills you're having trouble paying, don't just ignore them. Falling behind could wreck your credit score, making it tough or impossible to borrow affordably the next time you need to. Instead, reach out and ask for help. Your landlord might give you more time to come up with rent, while your auto lender might allow you to defer a few months' worth of payments. The more calls you make, the more aid you might get.
Next, see if there are ways you can borrow affordably while you hold out for your stimulus money. If you own a home, borrowing against its equity may be your best bet, though it's worth noting that some lenders are pulling back on home equity loans and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) during the ongoing financial crisis. If you don't own property, try a personal loan, which you'll qualify for based on your credit score. There are even personal loans available to those with bad credit, although you'll pay a higher interest rate on the amount you borrow if you take out one of those loans.
Finally, you can explore government programs like SNAP, which provides food benefits, or rental assistance if you can't afford to stay in your home. If your income has taken a dive during the pandemic, you may be eligible for relief, so it's worth looking into.
Unfortunately, lawmakers have some kinks to iron out before a second COVID-19 relief package is good to go. And until that happens, you may need to explore your own relief options to get through the next month.
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