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Your next stimulus check may be in jeopardy now

Your next stimulus check may be in jeopardy now

Congress is moving toward another big vote on the third round of stimulus checks, for up to $1,400. But a new compromise could keep you from getting a payment this time.

President Joe Biden has reportedly OK’d a plan from Senate Democrats to change the eligibility rules, to “target” the stimulus checks away from Americans with higher incomes. That means millions of previous recipients wouldn’t get cash in the new go-round.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (pictured) says lawmakers remain on track to meet a mid-March deadline for completing the legislation. Which means it could be just a couple of weeks before you have an additional $1,400 to pay down debt, save or use for expenses — but only if you’re still eligible.

What’s happening with the stimulus checks?

United States Capitol Building East Portico, Washington, DC 4/4/2020

creeed / Shutterstock

The stimulus checks are part of a $1.9 trillion COVID rescue package that cleared the House last weekend and is now before the Senate. The Democrats who control Congress are pushing the bill through using a maneuver that allows passage with only simple majorities — meaning potentially no support from Republicans.

To win over conservative Democrats in the Senate, Biden agreed on Wednesday to narrow the eligibility for stimulus checks, according to multiple media outlets. Here’s how it would work:

  • Individuals earning less than $75,000 and couples making under $160,000 would still receive a full $1,400. Then, payments would start phasing out.

  • There would be no money for single taxpayers earning more than $80,000 or joint filers with incomes above $160,000.

Previously, the cutoff points were incomes of $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for couples. With the change, 17 million fewer Americans would get payments this time, according to an analysis from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

Conservatives want the stimulus checks targeted toward needy Americans struggling with basic expenses. The first, $1,200 checks last spring were primarily spent on essentials like food and rent, a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey found.

Some of that cash also was used for saving and investing, or for other things that may have included buying affordable life insurance. Demand for policies has surged amid COVID.

How soon will you get your money?

The pandemic relief legislation includes $400 a week in emergency federal unemployment benefits. Democrats are racing to get a bill to Biden before the current federal jobless benefits run out on March 14.

Sen. Schumer said in a floor speech on Monday that he expected “a hardy debate and some late nights” in the Senate — although he seemed confident Democrats could get the job done. A Senate vote may come as early as Friday morning.

Then, the bill will be kicked back to the House for final approval before delivery to the White House. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer expects that last vote to take place on Monday; he says he doesn’t expect the Senate to make “egregious” changes that would prevent final passage by the House.

What that means is the bill could become law as soon as next week — and you could get your $1,400 check during the second half of March.

What if you need money right away?

Tired working mom with child in her lap, head in hand and looking at bills on table

Kaspars Grinvalds / Shutterstock

If you can’t wait and need more money today, here are some ways you might find a little extra cash.

  • Cut the cost of your debt. If you’ve been relying on your credit cards through the pandemic, the expensive interest may be catching up with you by now. Make your debt easier to carry — and unload sooner — by folding your balances into a single debt consolidation loan at lower interest.

  • Shrink your insurance bills. Has your car insurance company offered you a discount because you’ve been driving way less through the pandemic? No? Then maybe it’s time to shop around to find a better deal. And while you’re looking, you could save hundreds by comparing rates to find a lower price on homeowners insurance.

  • Reduce your mortgage payments by refinancing your mortgage. If you haven’t looked around for a lower interest rate on your home loan in the last year, there’s no better time than now. Rates remain historically low, and refinancing your current mortgage could reap big savings.

What if you won’t get a stimulus check this time?

If the new income limits could keep you from receiving the full $1,400 check — or any payment at all — there are a couple of things you can do:

  • File your 2020 taxes ASAP. You might still qualify for a stimulus check if your income dropped in 2020 because of the pandemic. The IRS will base your eligibility on your most recent tax return, so you’ll want to get your 2020 income information in front of the tax agency ASAP. Log into a good tax software product and get your return in immediately.

  • Trim your budget and “make your own” stimulus check. By finding a few creative ways to cut back, you could rearrange your budget to squeeze out another $1,400. Put off running your dishwasher or washing machine until you have full loads, and use the appliances during cheaper, off-peak energy hours. Turn your hobby or special talent into a side hustle to bring in extra income. And, download a free browser add-on that will automatically scour for better prices and coupons whenever you shop online.

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