Americans Could Receive Another $376 Billion in Stimulus Relief

by Maurie Backman | Published on Nov. 18, 2021

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Young family bundled up in warm clothes by a window.

Image source: Getty Images.

Could more money be coming your way?

Key points

  • The rising cost of natural gas will make it harder for Americans to heat their homes this winter.
  • COVID-19 relief funds could be made available to help ease that burden.

Despite a recent dip in prices, the cost of natural gas has soared this year. As of late September, it was up more than 180% from the previous year.

That's putting a lot of people in a tough spot already. In some parts of the country, the heating season has begun at home. But with gas costs being so high, many homeowners will no doubt struggle to keep up with their utility costs.

That's the bad news. The good news is that leftover stimulus funds may be made available to help offset those higher bills -- and help many households avoid landing in debt or, worse yet, having their heat cut off.

A $376 billion pool of money is still up for grabs

On Nov. 18, the Biden administration announced it intends to take funds from the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill passed in March to help Americans cope with rising heating costs. That bill was the same one that sent a third round of direct stimulus checks into Americans' bank accounts, boosted unemployment benefits, and expanded the popular Child Tax Credit.

There are specific funds left over from March's relief bill that could be allocated toward help with heating costs:

  • $4.5 billion from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
  • $21.5 billion from Emergency Rental Assistance programs (those eligible for help in paying past-due rent are also eligible for help with utility costs, so this isn't a stretch)
  • $350 billion from the State & Local Recovery Fund

All told, that's about a $376 billion pool lawmakers can tap to help homeowners manage their heating bills at a time when the general cost of living seems to be going nowhere but up. Thanks to rampant inflation, consumers are now spending more money on everyday essentials like groceries, and in the absence of some relief, many risk landing deep in debt.

Meanwhile, this winter, heating costs could reach astronomical levels. Households are estimated to spend 54% more for propane, 43% more for heating oil, 30% more for natural gas, and 6% more for electric heating, as per the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Is it time for a fourth stimulus check?

Given the higher costs Americans are dealing with these days, it's easier to make the argument for a fourth round of stimulus checks. But based on an improving economy and declining unemployment rates, that's unlikely to happen.

At this point, weekly jobless claims keep dropping, and the labor market is actually loaded with job opportunities for those who seek them out and aren't facing other constraints preventing them from entering the workforce. A blanket round of aid is something that's hard to support, despite the blow inflation has dealt so many consumers since the summertime.

Still, if Americans can snag assistance covering their heating costs, it'll ease one major financial burden. While aid with heating bills isn't the same as a direct stimulus payment, it's aid most recipients certainly won't rush to turn down.

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