How to find, spend your stimulus money

Did you receive a stimulus payment in January? Or, did you do what so many Americans did, and throw it away as junk mail?


In January, millions of second-round stimulus payments were issued by the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service. However, instead of automatically depositing them into bank accounts, as happened with most of the first round of payments, this time for many people the money came in the form of a debit card.


Many people assumed that the Economic Impact Payment (EIP) card and the letter it came with were part of a scam.


It arrived in the mail in a white envelope displaying the U.S. Department of Treasury seal and the note “Not a bill or an advertisement. Important information about your Economic Impact Payment Inside.” Along with the card, were instructions on how to activate and use it.


That card is worth at least $600 and maybe a lot more, depending on your situation.


The amount on the card varies depending on the size of your household. Individuals receive $600. Those married filing their tax returns jointly for 2020 should receive $1,200. In addition, $600 is added to the card for each qualifying dependent child you had in 2020.


To receive the payment, the IRS says your adjusted gross income cannot exceed $150,000 if married and filing a joint return or if filing as a qualifying widow or widower.


The cap for the adjusted gross income for someone filing as head of household is $112,500, and it is $75,000 for eligible individuals using any other filing status.


What to do if you didn’t receive it

If you were expecting a second stimulus check and didn’t receive the Visa debit card in the mail, first check your bank account. While the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service did send many EIP cards out, for some people this stimulus money was deposited directly into their account. Maybe you’ll have a nice surprise when you check your bank balance!


For other people, the money came as a paper check in the mail. And, for some, as we mentioned, it is possible you or someone in your household threw the envelope away, thinking it was scam or an advertisement to get a new Visa card.


The good news is that the IRS says the EIP card is secure and can be replaced if needed!


So, if you are still waiting for your stimulus payment, go to the IRS.Gov website. There, go to Get My Payment. Under Get My Payment, you will be able to see if a payment was sent and how – direct deposit or mail.


What to do with the money

We may be too late for many people who have received the stimulus money, but we do want to put our two cents in about how best to spend it.


With COVID-19, most people have been deprived of getting together with friends, socializing and enjoying normal activities. Frankly we all feel like we’ve “gone without” in some way.


When hundreds or thousands of dollars are suddenly available – literally showing up in the mail or in your bank account – it’s easy to want to treat yourself to something.


We understand. But, we want to be a voice for fiscal responsibility.


Start with transferring the money into your bank account, so you won’t be as tempted to peter it away on nonessentials.


Always make sure that you make your housing situation secure by paying your rent or mortgage first.


Paying those bills first is critical to a secure future. For those who’ve lost their job due to COVID-19, the federal moratorium on mortgage loans is slated to be lifted March 31. That means if you’ve stopped making mortgage payments on your federally secured loan, you will need to resume them soon.


The same goes for renters who haven’t been paying their landlord. March 31 is also the day the moratorium will lift to allow landlords to proceed with actions against renters who aren’t paying.


After housing and having money for food and transportation, it’s important to pay any other outstanding bills before spending your wad.


If you have money left, shop local

If you are in a secure place with your housing and other bills and you have some in savings, then by all means, support local businesses such as restaurants and shops with your much-needed dollars.


This has been a hard, weird season for everyone. But there’s something about supporting the neighbors, friends and business owners in our community that helps brighten everyone’s day.


Have you noticed how often, restaurants specifically thank you for your patronage? If we want these and other favorite local businesses to survive, they need your business.

Next week

Next week we will talk to our housing counselor, Julie Galligan, about the various ways NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor can help landlords, tenants and homeowners during these challenging times.


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