What a $600 Stimulus Check Can Actually Buy You in America

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Last night – after months of delay – Congress finally reached a deal to pass a $900 billion COVID-19 relief package, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown. This package follows the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) that was reached and passed last spring.

While the vote will come later today, key provisions of the package include: aid for struggling small businesses, including more than $284 billion for forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans and $15 billion “in dedicated funding for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions;” $300 per week for enhanced unemployment insurance benefits; $25 billion for rental assistance and an eviction moratorium extension.

See: How the Stimulus Plan Will Affect Your Wallet
Explore: The Stimulus Check Secret You Need to Know Before You File Your 2020 Taxes

There will also be $82 billion for education providers like schools and colleges, including aid to help reopen classrooms safely; $10 billion to help with child care assistance; $13 billion in increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and child nutrition benefits; $7 billion to bolster broadband access to help Americans connect remotely during the pandemic; funding to support coronavirus vaccine distribution, testing and contract tracing efforts and health care workers; and a tax credit “to support employers offering paid sick leave.”

Make Your Money Work for You

This second stimulus package will also include a direct $600 payment to individuals earning up to $75,000 — half of the $1200 per person payment the first stimulus agreed upon and a far cry from what most people expected. Children will receive $600 as well, up from the $500 in the CARES Act. But how far will $600 really go on essential expenses?

Of course, it depends on where you live in the U.S., but the first $1,200 stimulus checks like those distributed in April 2020 were not able to completely cover one month of living costs, even in the most affordable cities. These monthly living costs ranged from $1,324.02 in a city such as El Paso, Texas, to $4,315.77 in San Francisco, according to U.S Census Bureau data.

Make Your Money Work for You

See: A New COVID-19 Fear for Parents: Retiring Broke
Explore: Will You Get Your Stimulus Check in Time for Christmas?

Let’s break it down further:

Make Your Money Work for You

“It’s not the CARES Act and it’s very late, but it’s much better than nothing,” tweeted Gregory Daco, the chief U.S. economist for Oxford Economics. “It will help buffer the economic slowdown we’re experiencing & provide the economy more dynamism during early vaccine rollout phase.

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