Stimulus Check Update: New Data Could Support a Push for a Fourth Round of Stimulus Checks

by Angelica Leicht | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on June 4, 2021

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A mom, dad, son, and daughter unpacking bags of groceries in their kitchen and playing with the food.

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It's still unclear whether a fourth round of stimulus checks is headed your way -- but a new study could help fuel the fire behind a fourth batch of checks.

Have you received your third stimulus check yet? The IRS is continuing to issue the third round of stimulus checks to those who qualify and have not received their direct payments prior to filing their taxes, but at this point, most of the $1,400 payments have gone out to recipients by mail or direct deposit. If you haven't received your third stimulus check yet, you'll likely have to file your taxes to get it.

Stimulus checks have been an important -- and necessary -- lifeline for millions of Americans, many of whom have been underemployed or unemployed during parts of the pandemic. But while the money from the first three rounds of stimulus checks helped to fill empty bank accounts and empty pantries, it's unclear whether another round of checks will be coming in the near future. While dozens of Democratic leaders have called in recent months for President Joe Biden to propose ongoing stimulus payments for Americans in need, the reality is that the fourth stimulus payment has a lot less momentum behind it.

But, while the idea of a fourth check may be up in the air, what is clear is that the last two rounds of stimulus checks had a big impact on the households who needed the money the most. A new study shows how the money from those two checks helped households across the nation -- and it could add to the support for another round of stimulus checks. Here's what we learned from the new data.

What the data shows about stimulus checks

While a fourth stimulus check may feel like it's out of the realm of possibility at this point, a new analysis from researchers at Poverty Solutions of the Census Bureau data may help to give the push for a fourth check new life. In particular, the analysis offers interesting insight into how the last two rounds of stimulus money were used by recipients.

According to the analysis, the data shows that the last two rounds of stimulus checks -- which were issued starting in late 2020 and again in March 2021 -- were used, in major part, to help people buy food and pay necessary bills. The money from these two stimulus checks helped reports of food shortages drop by 42% from January through April -- which is clearly a significant drop. The rates of financial instability also fell overall by 45%, according to the analysis.

Unsurprisingly, the financial boost from these two checks helped to alleviate some of the anxiety and depression that Americans were facing due to financial issues caused by the pandemic. In total, reports of anxiety and depression dropped by over 20% among all households after the last two stimulus checks were issued.

The sharpest declines in hardship happened immediately after the passage of the last two relief bills, according to the analysis. This coincides with the delivery of the second and third stimulus checks to Americans who qualified.

The data shows that declines in material hardship were greatest among low-income households. Interestingly, though, the data shows that the declines in hardships were evident higher up the income distribution, too.

The households that benefitted the most from the direct payments typically had the lowest incomes -- with lower-income households with kids in particular seeing major benefits from the payments.

While the analysis makes it clear that other adjacent types of aid also helped in the recovery, the clear story from the analysis is that the last two stimulus checks -- for $600 and $1,400 respectively -- were the catalyst for lesser hardships in households across the nation.

What does this mean for a fourth stimulus check?

Right now, whether or not the analysis of how the second and third stimulus checks helped Americans across the nation is enough to get more politicians -- and Biden -- on board remains to be seen. While the data clearly shows that stimulus checks are helping the Americans who need it most -- both in helping to lessen financial hardships and stressors -- there's likely an uphill battle for any proposals that include another direct stimulus payment for Americans.

In general, lawmakers' attitudes have been split when it comes to a fourth round of stimulus checks. Some Democratic lawmakers have been pushing in recent months for another round of stimulus money, but no real traction has been gained. Still, the demand for a fourth stimulus check remains high. As of early July, millions of people had signed a petition calling for a fourth check.

Whether or not Biden will make a fourth round of stimulus checks a priority in the future, however, remains to be seen. Thus far, Biden has not proposed a fourth round of stimulus checks to Congress -- and any future proposal would likely be met with resistance from conservative lawmakers, who have made it clear in recent months that they are not on board with another round of checks.

White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, also made it clear earlier this week that the White House will not be prioritizing a new round of stimulus checks -- and is prioritizing jobs and the economy instead.

"He's happy to hear from a range of ideas on what would be most effective and what's most important to the economy moving forward," Psaki said. "But he's also proposed what he thinks is going to be the most effective for the short term for putting people back to work, to getting through this pivotal period of time, and also to making us more competitive in the long term."

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