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How are people spending their $600 checks?

Marielle Segarra Jan 13, 2021
Heard on: Marketplace
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A woman pays for a to-go order at a New York restaurant. Some people are splurging a bit and others are putting the relief payment into necessities. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
COVID-19

How are people spending their $600 checks?

Marielle Segarra Jan 13, 2021
A woman pays for a to-go order at a New York restaurant. Some people are splurging a bit and others are putting the relief payment into necessities. Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

It’s been a couple of weeks since the federal government started sending out relief checks of $600. We talked to some people about how they’re spending — or not spending — the money. 

When Austin Flannery in Greenville, South Carolina, got his $600 check, he decided to splurge.

First, $70 on a barbecue dinner with his girlfriend.

Then on some clothes, like a $50 pair of pants.

Then, at a local store, he saw a painting of a French actor from the 1800s — he bought that too. 

“And then I went home and I was like, ‘Man, he needs to be tattooed on me,’” Flannery said. “He looks so elegant. So I got a tattoo of him.”

Another $400.

When Flannery got the first government check in the spring, he used it to pay off medical bills. But he had just lost his job at an insurance company.

Since then, he’s gotten a new job. 

“Luckily enough, I’m in a financial place right now where I could afford to have a little bit of fun,” he said. “So I did.”

One reason the government is sending out checks is so people like Flannery will spend money. Another is economic relief. 

I heard from people who used the money to pay for necessities like rent and heating oil.

In San Diego, Katherine Olenski and her husband got $1,200.

“Some of that went towards just bills, just trying to survive,” she said.

Specifically gas and electric bills. The couple saved the rest. Olenski is a hairstylist, and her salon is currently shut down. 

“Honestly, who knows what 2021 is gonna look like for work for me?” she said. “And we always just want to be more prepared than less.”

A lot of people are using the money to set themselves up financially. 

Hector M. Rico in Chicago is hoping to buy a house soon, so he’s paying off debt to build credit and potentially get a better interest rate on a mortgage.

Rico is also using some of the money to buy raffle prizes for his students. He teaches physical education at a public school. 

“I like to give out little pedometers. I get them at, like, Target sometimes for 30, 20 bucks,” he said. “Or jump-ropes [from] the dollar store.”

One thing I heard over and over: A lot of people are giving a portion of their check away to neighbors, family members and charities like food banks. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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