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Personal finance and money | News summary for 18 February

Update:
President Joe Biden gestures as he speaks about the $1.2 trillion "Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act" at the Shipyards in Lorain, Ohio.

Personal finance and money news: live updates

CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS CHECKS

How much were the first, second and third stimulus checks and when were they sent out?

Three stimulus checks have been sent out by the US federal government since the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.

AS USA takes a look back at each of the direct payments

Walmart to says expect more "Rollback" signs at stores

Part marketing, part cost-saving tool for consumers Walmart's big red "Rollback" signs have become more common in the last quarter. According to the company's CEO Doug McMillon speaking to anaylsts, there will be even more in coming months as customers deal with rising prices on just about everything.

How to cope with high inflation from those that lived through it

The Federal Reserve is set to meet mid-March just days after the next report on inflation is due to come out. The February data will be influencial on how policymakers move forward to rein in inflation that has hit 40-year highs in recent months. 

The Fed has already signaled that it will be raising interest rates, but how much, a quarter, a half a percentage point, will depend on the rate of inflation in February. At any rate higher-than-normal inflation is expected through 2022, so how can you cope with rising prices? The Wall Street Journal talks to those who lived through the last bout.

Without Child Tax Credit payments childhood poverty rises by 41 percent

The stimulus and covid-19 relief measures implemented at the onset of the covid-19 pandemic not only kept the US economy from a full meltdown but also had the benefit of pulling millions of children out of poverty. When analyzed for household income each time American households received a stimulus check payment the childhood poverty rate plummeted only to rebound the following month. 

However, it was with the start of the 2021 Child Tax Credit payments that the rate progressively moved down, bumping up in September when enhanced unemployment benefits expired in the states that had kept them going. December was the last month that families across the US saw a monthly installment.

The program expired at the end of the year with the Senate failing to pass the Build Back Better Act which included a one year extension. The childhood poveerty rate has since jumped by 3.7 million or around 17 percent of children.

TAX SEASON 2022

IRS tax refunds 2022: What is tax topic 152? Will I still get my refund on time?

The Internal Revenue Service began accepting 2021 tax returns 24 January, and most taxpayers have until 18 April 2022 to get their paperwork submitted. Depending on the method your 2021 tax return is sent, you’ll be able to check its status either 24 hours or four weeks after the fact online with the agency’s “Where's My Refund?” tool.

According to the IRS over 90 percent of refunds are issued within 21 days, the agency’s normal timeframe. There is always the possibility that some tax returns will require additional review delaying your tax refund, especially in light of changes made to several credits for the 2021 fiscal year. So what does it mean if you see Topic No. 152 when checking on your refund status?

Full details

Regulators see cyrptocurrencies as potential threat global financial stability

Cyrpto-assets at on point in 2021 tripled in value to $2.6 trillion, a drop in the bucket compared to the $120 trillion global stock market. Still regulators from 24 countires that make up the Financial Stability Board warned of systemic risk from the digital assets in a new report. 

Their concern stems from banks and other financial institutions that are systmeically important are becoming increasingly exposed to the wild fluctuations of the once niche market assets experience.

Seeking higher wages Apple store employees look to unionize

Apple has seen its revenue skyrocket in the past five years, increasing by more than 50 percent. The company has a loyal base of employee but those that work in retail would like to see more of the record-setting profits come there way instead of to investors.

Their grevience with the company is that their pay, $17 to over $30 per hour, depending on their market and position, has stagnated and not kept pace with inflation. Staff are looking to the success of employee at Starbuck, and so far those at two stores have are preparing to file paperwork with the support of major national labor unions with half a dozen or more locations in earlier stages of the process according to the Washington Post.

Comments on the passing of the bill

We have kept the government open. It took some work, especially when the Senate rules lend themselves to delay and obstruction. Still, I thank Senators Leahy and Shelby, as well as Leader McConnell, for helping us get this done. To have allowed the government to close would have caused undue hardship for millions of blameless Americans.

Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader

Government shutdown avoided

The Senate on Thursday passed a bill to avert a government shutdown ahead of a Friday night deadline, sending the legislation to President Biden's desk for a signature.

The bill funds the government through to March 11.

Child poverty spikes in US after Child Tax Credit expires

The Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy has issued a report on the effects of the Child Tax Credit coming to an end.

"The monthly child poverty rate increased from 12.1 percent in December 2021 to 17 percent in January 2022, the highest rate since the end of 2020. The 4.9 percentage point (41 percent) increase in poverty represents 3.7 million more children in poverty due to the expiration of the monthly Child Tax Credit payments."

White House unveils tool to direct green investment to disadvantaged communities

The White House on Friday launched a beta version of a tool that will be used to determine where to invest bilions of federal dollars to bring clean energy and infrastructure to disadvantaged communities, a key step in fulfilling a promise by the Biden administration to prioritize environmental justice.

The Council on Environmental Quality unveiled the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool, used to map and identify communities that are most in need of investment by weighing income levels and over two dozen socieconomic, health and environmental indicators.

The software has been under development since early last year with input from the White House environmental justice advisory council as a key input for President Joe Biden's "Justice40 Initiative," a goal he set early in his presidency to ensure that 40% of the benefits of federal investments in clean energy get channeled to communities that are overburdened by pollution.

“The Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool will help federal agencies ensure that the benefits of the nation’s climate, clean energy, and environmental programs are finally reaching the communities that have been left out and left behind for far too long,” CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory said.

Using census tract data, the web-based program identifies communities as being disadvantaged if they are above the 65th percentile for income and above the 90th percentile for any of 25 indicators ranging from local asthma rates to traffic and hazardous waste site proximity to unemployment.

But an indicator that is conspicuosly absent is race. A Biden administration official told reporters that the tool was designed to be "race neutral" to be able to withstand potential legal challenges.

WORLD NEWS

How might the global stock market be affected if Russia invades Ukraine?

On Sunday President Joe Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan warned that a Russian invasion into Ukraine could come “any day now,” heightening fears of military action in Eastern Europe. A number of nations have advised citizens to leave Ukraine immediately and the US embassy in Kyiv has been closed.

This resulted in a considerable drop in the pan-European Stoxx 600 index on Monday morning, with Germany’s DAX also falling 3.4% across the day.

Read more

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Dollar spikes on Ukraine jitters after Russia reports attack

The dollar bounced in the Asia session on Thursday after a Russian news report of mortar fire in eastern Ukraine sent investors worried about a wider war scurrying for safety.

Russian-backed rebels accused Ukrainian forces of shelling their territory in violation of agreements aimed at ending conflict in the contested Donbass, the RIA news agency said.

The euro slipped as far as 0.4% on the report, before recovering slightly to $1.1340. The risk-sensitive Australian dollar lost as much as 0.6%. The safe-haven yen rose about 0.2% to 115.24 per dollar.

"There is a lot of anxiety," said Bank of Singapore strategist Moh Siong Sim. "It's not clear whether it's some local event or something which could flare up...right now such headlines are keeping the markets a bit nervous."

The Russian rouble, which has been sensitive to the prospect of war as sanctions loom, fell 0.6%.

The standoff on Europe's eastern edge is one of the deepest crises in East-West relations for decades. Earlier in the Asia day, a US official said Russia was increasing troop numbers near its border with Ukraine rather than withdrawing, as Moscow claimed.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said Russia could "launch a false pretext at any moment" to justify an invasion.

What are Democrat plans to tackle inflation?

The Federal Reserve holds the most powerful tool to bring down inflation, by raising interest rates, as the central bank is expected to do when it meets in mid-March. It has been said that rate increases typically take six to 18 months to deliver their full effect on the economy, meaning American consumers will still be feeling the brunt of price increases for months to come.

TAX SEASON 2022

Can you claim pets on taxes?

Like raising children, families can incur sizeable expenses taking care of their pets. The federal tax code gives US taxpayers with children and dependents several credits that they can take advantage of when filing, especially on 2021 tax returns.

Uncle Sam however, does not consider it the responsibility of the other US taxpayers to give you a break on your tax bill, except in certain cases, for your pets. Here’s a look at when you can use your pets for tax purposes.

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FBI sets up unit to fight crime using Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies

Last week the Justice Department made the largest financial seizure in history when it recovered money from a 2016 heist. A new York couple back then stole around $64 million in Bitcoin but the value had surged to roughly $3.6 billion at the time of the seizure.

Under the Biden administration regulators are looking to bring some order to the "Wild West" of the digital currency market which has seen wild swings in value. The latest move is the establiahment of a  "virtual asset exploitation" unit at the FBI.

The new unit will be tasked with blockchain analysis and virtual asset seizure and run by an experienced computer crimes prosecutor Eun Young Choi.

Which states saw an increase in the number of workers who quit their job?

States that saw the largest increase in the number of workers quit their jobs in December were "Pennsylvania (+73,000), New Jersey (+29,000), and Minnesota (+28,000)."

The greatest decreases were seen in New York (-52,000), Michigan (-24,000), and Ohio (-22,000).

SOCIAL SECURITY

Does social security pay a month behind?

Similar to how an employer would pay its workers, sending a paycheck for hours put in, the Social Security Administration sends benefits the month after the month for which they are due. So, for example recipients receive January benefits in February, February’s come in March and so forth.

Should a beneficiary unfortunately die the day before a month finishes, his or her survivors or estate will be required to return the payment for the month that he or she died. Under Social Security regulations a person must live for an entire month for which benefits are paid.

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Good morning and welcome to the AS USA financial news live feed, bring you all the latest on tax season 2022 and the latest on proposed extension to the Child Tax Credit. 

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