Stimulus Update: Gas Prices May Be Easing, but Americans Still Need Relief

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  • High gas costs have been a pain point for consumers.
  • Though prices have recently come down a bit, Americans are still struggling to keep up.

Gas prices may be easing, but that doesn't mean consumers aren't struggling.

Ever since the start of the Ukraine conflict, U.S. gas prices have soared. And that's put many Americans in a tough spot financially.

A lot of people drained their savings during the early stages of the pandemic. And just when they were starting to rebuild financially, living costs started soaring.

Not only has inflation been rampant lately, but gas prices have been sky-high for months. That, in turn, has prompted lawmakers to consider various forms of relief, whether in the form of a gas-specific stimulus or rebate, or a gas tax holiday at either the federal or state level.

But in early July, consumers got a bit of a reprieve at the pump. After reaching a national average price of $5 a gallon the week of June 13, average weekly gas prices have been falling. And during the week of July 7, the average price of a gallon dropped to $4.75, as per AAA.

Clearly, that's a big deal for those who drive often and who have been struggling with higher costs. But unfortunately, consumers may now be stuck in a sort of limbo situation where gas prices are still way higher than usual, but not high enough to warrant more stimulus aid.

Consumers still need help

Last July, families with children saw the first of six monthly Child Tax Credit payments hit their bank accounts. This year, no such aid is on the table, as the boosted credit didn't get approved for 2022.

Not only is the enhanced Child Tax Credit gone, but there are no plans in the works for a federal stimulus check to arrive anytime soon. And given the state of the job market, it's easy to see why.

The U.S. economy added 372,000 new jobs during the month of June, and the unemployment rate sat tight at 3.6%. That's comparable to the pre-pandemic jobless rate, and it also means it's harder to justify another widespread round of stimulus aid.

So where does that leave consumers who are having difficulty paying for gas and other expenses? Unfortunately, in a pretty bad place. While lower jobless numbers are a good thing, they're not helpful for those consumers whose paychecks are falling dangerously short.

Aid is available -- but only in some states

The good news is that many states have recognized the need to dish out stimulus aid and are making plans to send out rebate checks to qualifying residents. But it's largely states with surplus funds in their budgets that are able to take this step. Not every state is issuing stimulus payments, and even within the states that are, not everyone will qualify for aid.

Meanwhile, though gas prices may have dipped recently, they could easily come back up as the summer moves along. Whether that pushes lawmakers to consider additional federal aid is, at this point, really up for debate. Although higher gas costs have been a motivator for lawmakers to try to act in recent months, at this point, they may evolve to become something consumers are expected to just deal with -- even if that means racking up debt to stay afloat.

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