President-elect Joe Biden is getting ready to unveil a multitrillion-dollar coronavirus rescue package that'll include his plan for a quick, third round of "stimulus checks" for most Americans.
Biden last week promised $2,000 direct payments would "go out the door" soon if voters in Georgia gave him a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate — and they did, through a pair of runoff elections.
Over the past two weeks, many people have been receiving their second COVID relief payments in the amount of $600. That's after an attempt to raise the amount to $2,000 failed in the closing days of 2020. Biden has referred to the $600 as a "down payment," with more to come.
Here's what we can currently say about whether and when you're likely to see a third stimulus check.
Vote results in Georgia set wheels in motion for new checks
Biden made his remarks about $2,000 checks at a campaign rally in Atlanta, one day before a vote that unseated two Republican U.S. senators from Georgia. The Democratic wins in those races gives Biden's party control over both houses of Congress.
That could make it easier for his proposals, like $2,000 stimulus checks, to become reality.
"That money will go out the door immediately to help people who are in real trouble," Biden said at the rally.
Many struggling consumers have been eager for the government to keep sending cash. Americans largely used their first stimulus payments for basics like groceries and utility bills, a survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found.
When Biden says "immediately," just how quickly might that be? He's not scheduled to take office until Jan. 20, and the new Senate — with Democrats in charge — may not be seated until the 22nd. So, if there will be fresh relief payments, you're not likely to get one until February, at the earliest.
What if you need more than $600 right now?
If the coronavirus has your family in a financial bind and you need more help right now than the latest $600 checks, here are a few ideas to pull together some money on your own:
Reduce your spending where you can. Cut loose any subscription services you're not using. Do more of your own cooking and stop ordering carryout so much. And download a free browser add-on that will save you money every time you shop online by instantly checking for better prices and coupons.
Cut the cost of your debt. If you’ve been leaning on your credit cards during the coronavirus crisis, you're probably piling up a mountain of interest. Rein in your credit card debt — and make it go away more quickly — by rolling your balances into a single debt consolidation loan at a lower interest rate.
Stop paying too much for insurance. As Americans have cut back on their driving this year, many car insurance companies have lowered their rates. But if your insurer won’t give you a break, it’s time to shop around for a better option. You also might save hundreds on your homeowners insurance by comparing rates to find a better deal.
Refinance your mortgage and slash your payments. Mortgage rates are the lowest in history, and refinancing your existing home loan could provide huge savings. Mortgage tech and data provider Black Knight says 19.4 million U.S. homeowners could cut their monthly house payments by an average $308 per month through a refi.
Will you really get another $2,000? Or $1,400?
Note that when Biden, incoming Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and others talk about pushing out "$2,000 stimulus checks," it's unclear at this point whether they're talking about new payments of $2,000 — or $1,400, to be added to the $600 Americans are currently getting.
And here's another important point: The new Democrats from Georgia essentially split the makeup of the U.S. Senate 50-50 between the two major political parties. Democrats will be considered in the majority because the new vice president, Kamala Harris, would be able to break any ties.
Biden will need every Democratic vote to pass his proposals, including the next stimulus checks. And Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has expressed skepticism over more direct payments.
"We have done an awful lot of that," Manchin told CNN last weekend. Biden may need help from Republicans who supported $2,000 stimulus checks in December, including Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley.