Personal Finance

Where your coronavirus stimulus check will go furthest, based on US rents

Key Points
  • Millions of American workers are poised to get stimulus checks to help ward off the negative effects of the coronavirus on the economy.
  • But an extra $1,200 may not go very far, based on rent costs around the country.
  • Here's where that money will stretch the furthest, and where it won't help as much, according to a CNBC analysis of Census data.

Many Americans should be encouraged that the government is likely to pay them $1,200 apiece amid the coronavirus economic downturn.

There's one problem, however: The money may not stretch very far — because the rent is too darn high.

Last week, Congress ushered in a $2 trillion stimulus bill aimed at propping up the economy. With it, many low- and middle-income taxpayers will have their wallets padded with payments from the government.

Individuals who earn up to $75,000 in adjusted gross income are eligible for $1,200 payments. Meanwhile, those who are married and file jointly with up to $150,000 in income are eligible for $2,400.

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The payments phase out completely at $99,000 in income for individuals and $198,000 for joint filers with no children.

Because many Americans don't even have enough saved to cover a $400 emergency, the checks should help to cover their expenses.

The problem, according to a CNBC analysis of Census data, is that, in many parts of the country, $1,200 isn't even enough to cover the median monthly rent payment. (The median is the middle in a list of numbers).

The map shows where individuals will have the hardest time making their rent payments.

Meanwhile, the 10 counties where it would be most difficult to stretch those payments were mostly in California or Virginia.

In California, that included San Mateo, Santa Clara, Marin, San Francisco and Orange counties. In Virginia, the list comprised of Arlington, Fairfax City, Falls Church City, Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

One exception to that was Nantucket County in Massachusetts, which came in at No. 10.

Meanwhile, the 10 counties where median rents are well below that $1,200 were spread across the country.

They include, in order of cheapest to most expensive: Owsley, Kentucky; Clay, Georgia; Cottle, Texas; Pope, Illinois; Guadalupe, New Mexico; Kemper, Mississippi; Lafayette, Arkansas; Grant, Nebraska; Cumberland, Kentucky; Hardin, Illinois; Roosevelt, Montana; Jefferson, Mississippi; and Van Buren, Tennessee.