COVID-19

How are people spending their $600 checks?

Marielle Segarra Jan 13, 2021
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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
Heard on:
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
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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 do vaccines mean for economic recovery?

COVID-19 is not going anywhere anytime soon, according to expert witnesses who testified at a recent hearing held by the Joint Economic Committee. Put simply, we can’t eradicate the virus because it infects other species, and there will also be folks who choose not to get the vaccine or don’t mount an immune response, according to Dr. Céline Gounder at NYU School of Medicine & Bellevue Hospital. “That means we can’t only rely on vaccination,” Gounder said. She said the four phases of recovering from the pandemic are ending the emergency, relaxing mitigation measures, getting to herd immunity and having long-term control.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

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