The Covid Economy

$1,400 stimulus payments would help keep 20 million adults afloat through July, report shows

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As Congress irons out the details of the next coronavirus relief package, a new report from Morning Consult finds that the much-anticipated $1,400 stimulus payments would help keep tens of millions of Americans up-to-date on their bills for the next few months.

Using its household survey data, Morning Consult estimates that over 30 million adults were unable to pay their bills in January. The vast majority of those who could not afford their bills in January — 82% — were households with incomes of $50,000 or less a year, "underscoring how severely pay losses have been concentrated among low-income adults during this recession," according to Morning Consult.

Among the adults who could not pay all of their bills in January, three-fourths fell short by less than $300. With that in mind, Morning Consult estimates that an additional $1,400 stimulus payment — coupled with income from a job or unemployment benefits — would enable 22.6 million adults to pay their expenses completely for four and a half months. If the checks are sent at the beginning of March, they could help keep tens of millions of adults out of debt through mid-July.

The remaining people behind on their bills, around 7.5 million, would still benefit from the one-time payment, though less so. They fell at least $500 short of paying all of their bills in January, according to Morning Consult, meaning a $1,400 payment would last them less than three months (that said, some households will qualify for more than that depending on the number of dependents).

Wading into the debate on potentially changing the income thresholds for the stimulus payments, Morning Consult notes that low-income households and parents reported spending more of their stimulus checks than higher earners, as of Feb. 4. It contends that future payments should be limited to households earning less than $50,000 per year, and that parents should receive higher payments for each child. (Of course, households earning more than $50,000 per year may have subsequently spent the check.)

Right now, there is no concrete timeline for when to expect the next relief package, though top Democratic lawmakers have said they want to pass it in the next couple of weeks before key unemployment insurance (UI) benefits expire on March 14.

In addition to the up to $1,400 payments for eligible taxpayers and their dependents, the $1.9 trillion relief package includes a $400-per-week supplemental jobless benefit and would extend certain UI programs through Aug. 29. It would also provide funding for a national vaccination program and additional small business loans, among other provisions.

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