Almost two years after the start of the pandemic, some of the hardest-hit workers in essential industries are still reeling financially. Many were forced to dip into their own pockets to pay for employment essentials, including protective equipment and child care.
To assist with those expenses, the government has announced up to $700 million in financial relief — essentially a new type of stimulus check. The payments will be targeted to eligible applicants.
Those who qualify will have the chance to cover household expenses or pay down debt — and there's still time to apply.
Funding for essential workers who keep America fed
Farm and meatpacking plant workers will be able to receive money through a new Farm and Food Workers Relief grant program, which was announced in recent weeks.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says grocery workers also can apply to receive some of the cash.
The Americans who'll qualify for the payments all who work in food-related industries, where sheltering in place or working from home was not possible.
These new stimulus checks are distrubuted by state agencies, nonprofits and tribal entities, who will apply for funds, then distribute the money to the workers.
So far, the USDA has not announced when eligible candidates can apply, but earlier this month officials told the Monterey Herald in California that workers would learn more about the process this fall.
Stimulus checks for hundreds of dollars
Farmworkers and meatpackers are entitled to up to $600 for pandemic health and safety-related costs, including personal protective equipment, child care and expenses related to testing or quarantining, the USDA says.
Approximately $20 million of the $700 million pool of money will be set aside for grocery store employees. However, the amount individuals in that industry will receive is not yet known.
"Our farmworkers, meatpacking workers and grocery workers overcame unprecedented challenges and took on significant personal risk to ensure Americans could feed and sustain their families throughout the pandemic,” says Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in a news release.
"They deserve recognition for their resilience and financial support for their efforts to meet personal and family needs while continuing to provide essential services," Vilsack says.
Other COVID-19 relief still available
This new round of assistance is narrowly targeted. If you're among the millions who are still struggling, and you're not a farm, meatpacking or grocery worker, there are other pandemic programs still open that could give you a financial lift.
More than $46 billion in emergency rental assistance was made available by the last two stimulus bills. As of the end of August, only 11% of the allotted funds had been distributed.
Another $10 billion was set aside to help homeowners struggling to pay their mortgages.
How to get a little more stimulus ASAP
Don't see a program that might help you? Whether your budget is feeling a bit tight these days or you could just use a little extra spending money, there are several options to help you create your own stimulus.
Deal with your debt. Credit may be convenient, but carrying a balance on your card will eventually bury you in expensive interest. Tackle that problem by folding your balances into a single debt consolidation loan. With a lower interest rate, you’ll not only slash the cost of your debt, but you’ll also be able to pay it off faster.
Trade in your mortgage. Almost half the homeowners who have taken advantage of the pandemic's historically low mortgage rates are now saving $300 a month or more, according to a recent Zillow survey. If you own your home and haven't refinanced in the past year, this may be the best time to do it. Thirty-year mortgage rates are hovering around 3%, so compare multiple refinance offers to see how much you might save.
Save while you shop. If you're doing more online shopping, a free browser extension can help you find the lowest prices by automatically scanning thousands of retailers.
Turn your pennies into a portfolio. Even if you don't have much money, you can still earn returns from today’s red-hot stock market. There's a popular app that can help you invest your "spare change" from everyday purchases, and grow a diversified portfolio.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.