Stimulus Check Update: Why Americans Still Need a Fourth Check

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The economy has improved since the last stimulus round. In spite of that, here's why some people may be desperate for a fourth check.

Key points

  • Lawmakers have not approved a stimulus check since a third round of payments went out in March.
  • Here are a few reasons why so many people are eager to get a fourth check.

At this point, it's becoming increasingly clear that a fourth stimulus check is unlikely to go out in 2021. But that doesn't mean the public can't benefit from that sort of windfall. Here are a few reasons why a fourth stimulus round may be sorely needed.

1. The unemployment rate is still high

In September, the jobless rate fell to 4.8%, the lowest level since the start of the pandemic. That's a marked improvement from April of 2020, when the unemployment rate hit a record high of 14.8%. But as much as things have gotten significantly better on the economic front, the jobless rate is still much higher than it was before the pandemic began.

In February of 2020, unemployment was only at 3.5%. And until we get closer to that number, it's easy to make the argument that some amount of aid is in order.

2. Boosted unemployment is gone

The American Rescue Plan, which put a third round of stimulus checks into Americans' bank accounts, also included a provision that would boost unemployment benefits by $300 a week. But that enhancement ended in early September, leaving many jobless people with a lot less weekly income to fall back on.

Plus, many self-employed and gig workers lost their benefits completely when special pandemic-era programs for the jobless came to an end. A fourth stimulus check could be a lifeline for anyone in this boat.

3. Monthly Child Tax Credit payments will soon be over

Another change the American Rescue Plan implemented was a boost to the Child Tax Credit and a different payment structure. Normally, the credit is only paid as a single lump sum in the form of a tax refund. This year, the credit has been paid in monthly installments since July. But with only two more of those installment payments left, families that have grown reliant on that money could benefit from a fourth stimulus check once it runs out.

4. Inflation is rampant

A big reason why the cost of living has risen so rapidly is that there's more demand for consumer goods and not enough supply to go around. That's actually a positive economic indicator -- it signifies that Americans are able to go out and spend more. At the same time, though, those on a limited income are really being squeezed as everything from gas to groceries to apparel has gotten more expensive. And a fourth stimulus check could help more people keep up with their essential needs and avoid debt.

A fourth stimulus check would clearly do a lot of people a lot of good. But lawmakers aren't likely to approve a massive round like they did in March.

In fact, President Biden has been criticized for sending stimulus checks to so many people who were doing just fine back in March and didn't need the money. With the economy having improved since then, another large round of aid would likely be met with much resistance -- which is why a fourth stimulus check probably isn't going to happen anytime soon.

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