Stimulus Update: As Inflation Soars, Americans Grow Desperate for Financial Help
- The Consumer Price Index rose 8.5% in March.
- As the cost of living gets more expensive, Americans are becoming increasingly desperate for a fourth stimulus payment.
Inflation is on a tear. Will that spur a new stimulus round?
To say that it's gotten more expensive to function would be an understatement these days. For months, consumers have been spending way more money than usual to buy groceries, cover utility bills, and fill up their cars. And things could still get worse before getting better.
In March, the Consumer Price Index, which measures changes in the cost of consumer goods, rose 8.5% on a year-over-year basis. That represents the largest jump since 1981.
Rampant inflation is making it increasingly difficult for Americans to pay their bills. This especially applies to those who suffered a financial blow during the pandemic and have not yet recovered.
But will soaring inflation make the case for a fourth stimulus check? Here's what you need to know.
Americans can't bank on a windfall
Lawmakers have proposed a gas-specific stimulus that would apply during periods when fuel costs are out of control, such as right now. But that aside, there's been no talk of a fourth stimulus check hitting Americans' bank accounts, even with inflation levels being so high.
While it's true that inflation is soaring, the U.S. economy is by no means in poor shape from a jobs perspective. Last week, only 185,000 people filed new claims for unemployment benefits. Considering that new weekly claims were being filed in the millions during the early stages of the pandemic, that's a vast improvement.
Also, while new jobless claims rose slightly last week compared to the week prior, they recently reached their lowest level since 1968. And based on that alone, a fourth stimulus check is highly unlikely.
That doesn't mean the Biden administration won't take steps to try to ease the gas crunch. But that's only one specific rising expense Americans are grappling with now. And the concern is that many Americans will inevitably end up loaded with debt if relief doesn't come through.
In fact, in February, U.S. consumer debt rose by nearly $42 billion. And part of that increase could stem from the fact that more people are being forced to charge expenses on credit cards in the absence of having enough money to cover their day-to-day costs.
Coping with higher living costs
Unfortunately, the chances of seeing a fourth stimulus check come out in the near term are very slim, despite the fact that so many consumers need help battling inflation. But those struggling to make ends meet should see what relief is available to them.
Some states, for example, still have rent relief funds available, which can be used to not only cover past-due housing payments, but also, in some cases, a few months of future payments. And customers who are struggling with utility bills can reach out to their providers and see what options they have, or see if their state rental assistance programs also cover utility costs.
Ultimately, these are tough financial times for a lot of people. And while a stimulus check could help many households better cope with higher living costs, that's an unlikely solution to come down the pike.
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