coronavirus Stimulus checks

Second stimulus check: is it enough to pay rent for the average family?

Congress has agreed a covid-19 economic relief bill that will provide $600 Economic Impact Payments for Americans, but how far will that support go?

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Second stimulus check: is it enough to pay rent for the average family?
MICHAEL REYNOLDS EFE

On Sunday Congress will vote on a $900 billion coronavirus stimulus bill which would provide the first major economic boost in nearly nine months. The package provides support for both individuals and businesses, and does include a second round of Economic Impact Payments (also known as stimulus checks).

Congress had extended their pre-Christmas session over the weekend to ensure that this and a federal funding bill can both be passed. With more direct payments on the horizon thoughts are already turning to how that much-needed support will be spent.

How much are the new stimulus checks worth?

After months of negotiations it appears a deal is close and the new bill, considerably smaller than the $2.2 trillion CARES Act signed back in March, will provide a $600 stimulus check for each eligible American, rather than the $1,200 offered in the first round. The full amount will go to people earning under $75,000 a year, while a gradually smaller amount will be paid to those with an annual income up to a limit of $99,000.

In addition, it is expected that $600 will also be provided for each dependent, regardless of their age. This means that a family of four (two adults, two children) can expect to receive $2,400, provided that the household is below the threshold.

This support comes at a vital time for millions of families who are feeling the economic effects of the pandemic. It is not clear what other relief the new stimulus bill will offer, but it seems unlikely that the current rent moratorium will be extended into the New Year. Currently, landlord are banned from evicting tenants who cannot cover their rent due to the pandemic but that support ends on 31 December. If it is not extended the stimulus checks will be essential for the estimated 19 million people who are currently protected by it.

Can the new stimulus check cover rent for an average family?

The cost of living varies so widely across the United States that there is no definitive answer, but we can get an idea of the how many rent payments (if any) those $600 stimulus checks would cover. Rent.com has studied the average rental costs for a variety of types of accommodation and found that rent has actually increased in many areas during 2020.

The average one-bedroom apartment in the US currently rents at around $1,690, while renters of a three-bedroom unit can expect to pay $2,017 a month. However the location of the house or apartment will have a massive bearing on cost of rent.

The state with the highest median monthly rent is Hawaii ($1,566), followed by California ($1,429) and Maryland ($1,357). In these states an eligible family of four would only be able to cover one full month of average rental payments with the upcoming stimulus checks. In the most expensive cities the $600 per person stimulus checks may not be enough for a single rental payment. The two cities with the highest average monthly rent are San Francisco ($3,629) and New York ($3,436).

The lowest median rent in the US can be found in the state of West Virginia ($711), meaning that stimulus checks totalling $2,400 could cover three months of rental payments. The same is true for residents of South Dakota ($722), which has the second-lowest monthly average and Arkansas ($729). In total there are 33 states with a median monthly rent of under $1,000 a month.

There are no plans to adjust the value of stimulus checks for these regional variations so that $600 stimulus check will be a lot more significant for some than it is for other.