by Maurie Backman | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on Jan. 10, 2021
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Some people who got a stimulus check initially won't get one during this second round. Here's what to do if you're one of them.
At long last, lawmakers have passed a second relief bill to follow late March's CARES Act, and it includes direct stimulus payments worth $600 apiece. While that's only half the amount adults received in stimulus cash the first time around, it's certainly better than no stimulus money at all.
If you received a stimulus payment under the CARES Act, you might assume you're in line for an additional payment now. But that's not necessarily the case.
Because the income thresholds are different this time around, you're eligible for a full $600 stimulus payment if you're a single tax-filer earning $75,000 or less, or a married couple filing a joint return earning $150,000 or less. But if you're single with no children and earn over $87,000, or married with no children and earn over $174,000 between you and your spouse, you aren't eligible for any stimulus at all. (Note that these thresholds are lower than the ones that applied under the CARES Act, which were $99,000 for singles and $198,000 for married couples.)
Of course, not getting a stimulus check you were banking on can be a major blow. Even if your earnings are high enough to render you ineligible, you may need that money to pay off debt or cover an unplanned expense. Or you may be dealing with income loss and struggling to keep up with your general bills. If you aren't receiving stimulus money this time around, here are some options to consider.
If you need money in a pinch and are a homeowner, you may be able to borrow it via a home equity loan or line of credit. But remember, there are minimums and closing costs associated with both options, so if you're only looking to make up for a single missing $600 stimulus check, you probably want to look elsewhere. There's no sense in borrowing more than what you need just to meet a minimum, or in paying interest or closing costs on a larger sum.
On the other hand, if you're struggling financially and need a lot more than $600 to get yourself through your current crisis, a home equity loan or line of credit could be a great solution. Both are fairly easy to qualify for as long as there's equity in your home.
If you don't own a home -- or if you do and would rather not borrow against it -- a personal loan could take the place of a missing stimulus check. To qualify for a competitive rate, you need good credit, though it is possible to get a personal loan, usually at a higher interest rate, if your credit is poor. That said, personal loans also come with minimums, so if you're looking to make up for a $600 stimulus check (or $1,200 for you and a spouse), you may find that you're required to borrow more than you need. Closing costs also apply to personal loans (though they can be more competitive than what you pay for a home equity loan), and that's an expense you may not want to bear.
Note that if you really don't need to borrow more than what your stimulus check would pay, you may qualify for a coronavirus hardship loan. These loans allow you to borrow as little as $500, and they come with low interest rates to make it easier to pay them back. You generally need to provide proof of income loss to qualify.
If you need a small amount to tide yourself over in the near term without that stimulus check, you might instead apply for a credit card with a 0% introductory APR. Use it to charge whatever bills you need to, then pay off that balance before your intro period expires. You're taking a risk by going this route -- namely, that you won't repay your balance before the intro period ends -- but it's a reasonable approach if you're just a few hundred dollars shy of meeting your financial obligations and a coronavirus hardship loan isn't on the table.
Unfortunately, for many people, $600 stimulus checks won't be enough to dig out of the holes they've landed in. If you expected a stimulus payment and aren't getting one, and you need that money to bridge a financial gap, you can look at different borrowing options. Ultimately, your borrowing decision should hinge on how much you really need to get by -- there's a big difference between being $600 short and being $6,000 short. Figure out how dire your situation is and let that help you decide how to tide yourself over in the absence of a stimulus payout.
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