The speed with which eligible Americans are receiving their third and largest stimulus checks to date during the coronavirus pandemic — less than two months into Biden’s presidency — is a political victory for a president who was unable to garner bipartisan support for his bill, but was still able to swiftly pass a sweeping relief package along party lines.
As Vox’s Emily Stewart explains, most Americans will be eligible for $1,400 stimulus checks:
The full checks will go out to single people making up to $75,000 and couples making up to $150,000, and phase out at $80,000 and $160,000, based on 2019 or 2020 tax returns, depending on when people last filed their taxes. Previous checks phased out at higher income levels, meaning some people who got checks in previous rounds won’t get them this time. However, the legislation includes checks for adult dependents, such as college students and people with disabilities, for the first time.
Biden signed the bill into law on Thursday and many people began to report receiving their checks by direct deposit this weekend. A number of households reported seeing full deposits even on Friday — just a day after the law was signed.
Stimulus cash is already out the door. This is a bank posting sent to me by a member of a family of four making under $150,000. pic.twitter.com/iunzWcK1o8— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) March 13, 2021
The Internal Revenue Service said on Friday that more rounds of stimulus checks will be deposited into bank accounts over the next few weeks, and sent out in the mail in the form of checks or debit cards. The agency also said people can track the status of their checks using the ”Get My Payment” portal.
Many Americans plan to use the checks to pay for necessities
The New York Times reports that Johanna Suarez, a sophomore at Houston Community College — who was eligible for her first stimulus check because adult dependents can receive them for the first time — received a $1,400 check on Saturday, and said she plans to use to it to buy books and pay for a dental procedure.
Suarez’s plans are fairly representative, according to a Census Bureau Household Pulse study, taken from February 17 to March 1.
As part of its ongoing coronavirus survey work, the agency asked its Household Pulse survey pool what people who recently received a check spent it on — or, for those who did not receive one during the survey period, what they planned to spend their next check on.
Respondents were allowed to select more than one answer to the question, and most said the money would go to filling an essential need. The survey found about 60 percent of people planning to use at least some of their money on food, and about 45 percent planning to spend some or all the funds on housing — either rent or mortgages. Other bills were also a priority, with 45 percent saying the stimulus would help with utility payments, and about 31 percent wanting to put money toward credit cards or loans.
About 15 percent of respondents felt they might be able to save some or all of the money. Only 2.5 percent said some portion of the money would go toward recreational expenses.
There was some debate about who needed a stimulus check ahead of the passage of the American Rescue Plan, with some lawmakers worried that if too broad a slice of the American people got the checks, those with higher incomes would not spend them. This data does not resolve that debate, but it does suggest that there is a pressing need for this money among many Americans — that people are waiting for these checks in order to cover the costs of basics like food and shelter, and that they will, in fact, be spending them.
The American Rescue Plan was exceptionally popular before it passed into law — in part because of the overwhelming popularity of stimulus checks: a Vox/Data for Progress poll taken in December 2020 found that 75 percent of likely voters wanted stimulus checks to be prioritized in the drafting of the bill.
Checks were included, and in a survey taken March 5-7, Data for Progress found that nearly 70 percent of likely voters supported the bill. That group of supporters included 54 percent of Republicans. Notably, respondents cited the stimulus check provision of the bill as one of its best aspects, according to the newer survey: 78 percent of voters supported the idea of $1,400 checks.
It remains to be seen if positive perception of the law will remain constant over time, but the impression of efficiency that the quick delivery of payments produces may prove helpful to Democrats at a time when there is widespread mistrust in the federal government.