Personal Finance

Another round of stimulus checks? Extended unemployment? Here are answers to key money questions

Key Points
  • It can be hard to budget when you don't know what money will be coming in or going out.
  • Here's an update on where your bill obligations and federal relief measures stand amid the pandemic.
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For many Americans, budgeting has become a more precarious balancing act these days.

Both sides of the equation — income and expenses — are wrought with uncertainty.

What will happen when your unemployment benefits run out? Will you be able to keep up with your credit card payments?

Here is some information on where things stand. 

Will there be another stimulus check? 

Another round of cash payments could be coming. 

House Democrats passed a $3 trillion stimulus bill, the HEROES Act, in May that included giving $1,200 to each American who earned less than $75,000 a year.

President Donald Trump called that legislation "dead on arrival," but the White House has since signaled support for more stimulus checks. 

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Most recently, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., suggested disbursing the funds to people making $40,000 or less a year.

In an interview last week on CNBC, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declined to say whether or not he supported that income cap. But he confirmed that the White House was still in favor of another round of payments. And once the details are finalized in the Senate, he said, "we can get that into hard-working Americans' bank accounts very, very quickly."

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When will my unemployment checks stop? 

In the same interview on CNBC last week, Mnuchin said another stimulus bill will pass by the end of the month. That's just when the additional $600 federal weekly unemployment checks are set to expire

There's some hope that the additional federal weekly benefit will continue beyond July. The HEROES Act would continue the $600 until January 2021. In the end, Democrats and Republicans may agree on an extra federal benefit of a smaller amount, said Chad Stone, chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. 

JGI/Tom Grill

But without any extension of federal benefits, jobless Americans will receive only their weekly state benefit. The average state check nationwide stands at around $333 a week, with a low of $101 in Oklahoma and a high of $531 in Massachusetts, as of April.

Workers in most states are typically eligible for state benefits for up to 26 weeks but, thanks to the CARES Act, in many cases they'll be able to collect the checks for 39 weeks

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Do I have to pay my rent right now? 

During the pandemic, rules around eviction vary by state, and there's even different protections by cities and counties. 

"There's no one approach," said housing expert Emily A. Benfer, who has been investigating and documenting the policies by location. You can learn what rules you're subject to in a free online spreadsheet, titled "Covid-19 Eviction Moratoria by State, Commonwealth and Territory," that Benfer has compiled. 

In 29 states, there's currently no statewide moratorium on evictions. But even in some of these states, there are local protections that have been issued for tenants. 

Peter Dazeley

And thanks to the CARES Act stimulus package Congress passed in March, you can't currently be evicted if you live in a property backed by a federal mortgage or are receiving government-assisted housing.

Government-sponsored lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac released tools recently that help renters search their property to learn if it qualifies for the eviction moratorium. The Urban Institute estimates the provision will cover nearly 30% of the country's rental units. 

When do I have to start paying my student loans again? 

The CARES Act granted most federal student loan borrowers a reprieve from their monthly payments until October. During that time, interest isn't supposed to accrue on your loans. 

House Democrats want to extend that break until September 2021. 

"Pretty much nobody thinks that will happen – including me," said Betsy Mayotte, president of The Institute of Student Loan Advisors, a nonprofit that helps student loan borrowers with free advice and dispute resolution.

The key is to find out who's offering what in terms of leniency.
Jack Gillis
executive director of the Consumer Federation of America

Still, Mayotte said, "I do think there's a good chance Congress will extend the waivers until the end of the year." 

Meanwhile, many lenders of private student loans have offered borrowers a 90-day Covid-19 forbearance upon request, said higher education expert Mark Kantrowitz. 

"This suspends the payment obligation, but interest continues to accrue," Kantrowitz said. "These will likely be extended if borrowers are still experiencing Covid-19-related employment challenges." 

And what about my other bills? 

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The situation varies depending on where you live and which bill you're worried about. For example, New York utility ConEdison pledged it won't shut off anyone's lights during the pandemic. Some credit card issuers, including Apple Card, meanwhile, are allowing consumers to defer payments without interest accruing, said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at CreditCards.com. 

"The key is to find out who's offering what in terms of leniency," said Jack Gillis, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America.

"This proactive effort is the best way to determine what bills need to be paid now, and which ones can wait." 

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