Stimulus Update: How Did Americans Spend Their $803 Billion in Financial Relief?

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  • The federal government issued 472 million stimulus payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Collectively, the payments were valued at around $803 billion.
  • Americans spent the money on a variety of purchases including food, utilities, and debt payoff.

What did your fellow Americans do with their stimulus checks?

Under both the Trump and the Biden administrations, the federal government of the United States took unprecedented action to help the public cope with the financial fallout from COVID-19. In fact, the government sent out around 472 million stimulus payments via check or direct deposit into bank accounts. Collectively, these payments had a total value of around $803 billion.

Recent data from the Census Bureau Pulse survey shed light on exactly how people spent their payments. Here's what people did with the money.

This is how Americans spent their stimulus payments

According to a CNBC analysis of Census Bureau data, people made different spending decisions with each stimulus check, with the first check more likely to be spent on necessities while subsequent payments were more likely to be used for longer-term financial goals such as saving or investing.

For the first payment:

  • 70.7% went to food
  • 53.5% went to utilities
  • 52.5% went to household and personal care products
  • 23.2% went to paying debt
  • 30.3% went to rent
  • 25.7% went to vehicle payments
  • 25.7% went to mortgages
  • 19.5% went to clothes
  • 13.7% went to savings and investments
  • 6.3% went to household electronics or appliances
  • 5.4% went to other purposes
  • 2.6% went to recreational goods
  • 5% went to charity

For the second payment:

  • 57.6% went to food
  • 44.2% went to utilities
  • 35.7% went to household and personal care products
  • 30.6% went to paying debt
  • 25.5% went to rent
  • 21.4% went to vehicle payments
  • 19.3% went to mortgages
  • 10.9% went to clothes
  • 15.4% went to savings and investments
  • 5.9% went to household electronics or appliances
  • 5.9% went to other purchases
  • 2.5% went to recreational goods
  • 4.1% went to charity

And finally, the breakdown of the third payment was as follows:

  • 61.3% went to food
  • 45.7% went to utilities
  • 40.7% went to household and personal care products
  • 32.5% went to paying debt
  • 31.5% went to rent
  • 24.2% went to vehicle payments
  • 20.4% went to mortgages
  • 19% went to clothes
  • 16.7% went to savings and investments
  • 8.2% went to household electronics and appliances
  • 6.2% went to other purchases
  • 3.6% went to recreational goods
  • 2.9% went to charity

As more money came, people were able to devote more of it to things like repaying debt or saving and investing. This means the stimulus funds not only provided short-term financial relief, but also helped people get ahead.

Will more stimulus money be coming?

As the data shows, most Americans made responsible decisions with their money. Many are hoping for more stimulus funds, but the likelihood of a bipartisan compromise that results in additional funding on the federal level is not high.

Still, some Republicans have put forth a plan to provide more help for parents, which has some overlap with Democratic goals. This means there is a small possibility more money could come soon -- especially if inflation continues to surge -- although it's best not to get your hopes up of this happening anytime soon.

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