Relief checks news summary | 18 february


US Finance News: Live Updates

Headlines: Saturday, 18 February 2023

- Department of Labor announces penalties for 13 companies found violating child labor laws

- Real wages fell by 0.2 percent in January for a year-over-year decrease of 1.8 percent 

- Retail sales beat expectations, increasing 3% in January

- Wall Street leaders predict 'soft landing' of US economy: what does this mean for workers? 

- Inflation data for January shows 6.4% price increase year-on-year

- IRS reports a ten percent decrease in the average refund size compared 2022

- Michigan to send $180 inflation relief checks: Who qualifies and when will they arrive? 

2023 Tax Season 

- Need help tracking your refund?Here is our short guide

- Take advantage of the IRS' Free File online service

- Who to contact if your tax refund is stolen or never arrives

Read more from AS USA:

Tax filers will be eager to know if and when they will be receiving a tax refund. Filing a tax return as soon as possible is the best way to make sure your return is processed promptly; the IRS will be sifting through tens of millions of tax returns on a first-come-first-served basis.

Typically the IRS is able to distribute a tax refund within 21 days so long as the return is filed electronically. Those who file with paper may have to wait up to six months to receive their refund.

Read our full coverage for details on when you can expect your refund and how to track it.

Over one hundred children, many of whom are unaccompanied minors, were found to be working in slaughterhouses under conditions that violate child labor law. / Andrew Kelly / REUTERS

Department of Labor has announced penalties for 13 companies found violating child labor laws so far this year

In November, the Department of Labor (DoL) announced its intention to investigate a major slaughterhouse cleaning contractor, Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI), after a series of child labor violations were uncovered.

On 17 February, officials said that their investigation had found that 102 children were involved in labor law violations in thirteen factories across eight states. PSSI had been contracted by major companies like Tyson Foods and Cargill, who were found to have seven and twenty-seven children between thirteen and seventeen working illegally. The investigation found that the children employed had been working with “hazardous chemicals” and had been tasked with “cleaning meat processing equipment including back saws, brisket saws and head splitters.”

Those who believe what happened at these facilities was an isolated incident should be aware that this case was one of many published by the DoL last week.

Read our full coverage for information on these other cases, including those where negligence and carelessness on the part of company leaders led to the deaths of two children.

Earlier this year, the United States made a decision that could be vital in encouraging the purchase of electric vehicles. The Administration launched a tax credit for which many citizens can opt for a benefit of up to $7,500 if they purchase an electric car.

However, it must be taken into account that there are a series of requirements that must be met in order to be able to purchase this form of transport, which is safer and cleaner for the environment.

Electric vehicles could make up more than 50 percent of car sales by 2030

The number of electric vehicles on the road has been growing rapidly as adoption of the technology accelerates. In ten years, sales of EV went from 0.2% of total car sales to 4.6% in 2021. There are now over 2 million of them on the roads.

While the forecast for future adoption on switching to EVs varies due to evolving government policies and car manufacturers turning their production lines over to all electric, optimistic estimates foresee electric vehicle sales surpassing 50 percent by 2030.


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SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps, became a crucial form of financial support for millions of families. The federal government introduced Emergency Allotments (EA) to increase the amount on offer to recipients.

The program has gradually been rolled back in the past year and February 2023 will be the final month in which recipients in certain states, those still offering the boost, can benefit from the EA. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) reports that 35 states and territories are still paying EAs this month, but that additional support will end in March.

We take a look at who will be affected...

Read more

Mortgage rates tick up for second week stymieing housing market rebound

Mortgage rates ticked up for a second week with the weekly average 30-year fixed rate rising two tenths of a percent to 6.32% nationwide according to Freddie Mac. Rates are more than double what they were at their historic lows around 3% in 2021.

Mortgage rates had been falling since peaking over 7% in late October and again in early November. That brought more would-be homebuyers back into the market animating a housing sector that has been cooling due to higher borrowing costs on top of high prices. While experts see a moderate downturn nationwide, some markets could still see large decreases in values.

Demand is still stronger than it was in November, but Redfin’s Homebuyer Demand Index is down slightly from last month, the first decline after months of increases.


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When filing your taxes, you may be able to apply for any of the tax credits offered by the tax collection agency, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is aimed at low-income individuals and families.

EITC recipients can receive up to $6,935, almost $7,000. However, the exact amount will depend on the situation of each family or individual applying, such as the number of children one has or annual income.

When a beneficiary receiving SSDI benefits reaches their full retirement age, the SSA automatically “convert[s] them to retirement benefits, and “the amount remains the same.” The average benefit for Social Security is $1,779.16, meaning that becoming disabled can leave individuals with lower incomes for the rest of their life.

The situation is slightly different for widows and widowers who receive a spouse’s survivor benefits. These individuals must contact the SSA when they reach their full retirement age so that any adjustments can be made to their benefit amount.

Natural gas prices in California have skyrocketed to levels not seen in 20 years. In January, some utility companies began warning customers about rising rates on their bills.

SoCalGas told customers that the January and February bills could be “surprisingly high”

Here’s why it is so expensive and when prices will drop.

In the United States, people who are unemployed may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits of hundreds of dollars each week for several weeks, depending on each state and contributions made to the Unemployment Insurance program.

Generally, Unemployment Insurance programs offer temporary benefit payments to people who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Here are the states that grant the highest amounts.

The Child and Dependent Care Credit is designed to ease the burden of childcare for working people. If you have to pay to ensure a child or dependent is looked after while you are at work, you will most likely be able to claim the credit.

For the 2022 tax year parents and care-givers can claim the tax credit to cover employment-related expenses worth up to $3,000 per dependent, up to a maximum of $6,000. The total amount of the credit cannot exceed 20-35% of your expenses, depending on your income level.

American taxpayers who filed their 2022 tax returns as soon as the filing period opened at the end of Janauary will be receiving their refunds. However, many of them are smaller than the refunds seen during the 2021 filing season.

The average refund for the 2021 season was, at this stage, $2,201 while so far for the 2022 season it is $1,963, a 10.8% decrease. Nearly 8 million people have received a refund, more than twice the amount of mid-February at the same time last year. The total amount of money refunded at this point has increased by about two-thirds, from $9.5 billion last year to nearly $16 billion this year.

Federal Reserve Chairmen Jerome Powell has warned that the impacts of the central bank’s rate hikes have not begun to impact the US economy. Regardless, inflation is falling, leading financial markets to rally after a turbulent 2022. The renewed strength of the stock market has some leaders of the financial sector, like Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, predicting that the economy could stabilize without a disruptive recession.

Solomon sees the performance of stocks in recent weeks as evidence that “the market has a sense that we’re putting inflation in the rearview mirror.” There are still likely to be ‘twists and turns,’ but the executive believes the “chance of a softer landing feels better now than it felt six to nine months ago.” Read our full coverage to find out more on Wall Street's view and how it could impact workers.

It's no secret that the United States has experienced a period of sustained high inflation over the past 12 months. Prices are rising well ahead of the Federal Reserve's 2% target, but changes do appear to be moving in the right direction.

Packers Sanitation Service found employing children as young as thirteen

Packers Sanitation Service, a slaughterhouse cleaning company, has been fined by the Department of Labor $1.5 million after the agency identified a slew of labor violations within the firm. 

Agents documented the employment of at least 102 children, some as young as thirteen, who were forced to work overnight shifts and handle hazardous materials. Some of the children working endured chemical burns as a result of poor conditions and lack of protection in the factories. 

The violations occurred in at least eight states. Major meat producers, including Tyson Foods and Cargill, had contracted the company. This news comes after Iowa passed legislation to weaken child labor law protections, and other companies like Hyundai have been fined for illegally hiring children at production plants in Alabama. 


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The Federal Reserve is tasked with providing stable conditions for the US economy and is utilising its power to adjust interest rates to cool inflation. But what does an ‘interest rate hike’ actually involve?

With financial experts predicting another three interest rate hikes in 2023, home-owners should anticipate further increases on their monthly mortgages repayments in the coming months. We take a look at what to expect...

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Interest rates and their effect on the housing market

Throughout 2022 the Federal Reserve was focused on bringing down the rate of inflation, which was running at dangerously high levels. Since a peak of 9.1% last summer inflation has began to slow, but it still remains uncomfortably high. 

In a bid to address high prices the Fed has implemented a series of interest rate hikes to discourage borrowing. However that effort has had consequences for the housing market...


How many people are claiming unemployment benefits in the United States?

Initial unemployment claims fell by 1,000 last week to 194,000. This brings the 4-week moving average to 189,500. 

The total number of beneficiaries was 1,696,000, down from 2,063,573 recorded during the same week in 2022. States with the highest percentage of workers receiving UI benefits for the week ending on 28 January were New Jersey (2.6), Rhode Island (2.5), California (2.3), Minnesota (2.3), Alaska (2.2), Massachusetts (2.2), Montana (2.1), Illinois (2.0), Puerto Rico (2.0), Connecticut (1.9), and New York (1.9).

US retail sales see positive growth

A Commerce Department report showed retail sales surged 3% in January as purchases of motor vehicles and other goods pushed the number well past the 1.8% estimate from economists polled by Reuters.

This follows the inflation data released on Tuesday which would suggest a few more interest rate hikes this year.


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The relationship between low unemployment and consumer resilience

The Federal Reserve has a reason why consumer demand has remained strong: low unemployment. Earlier this month, Federal Reserve Governor Christopher J. Waller described the impact of the BLS’s announcement that half a million jobs had been added to the economy in January.

“Such employment gains mean labor income will also be robust and buoy consumer spending, which could maintain upward pressure on inflation in the months ahead,” said Governor Waller.

Even when workers are seeing their disposable income fall, they, rather than the organizations that employ them, are to blame for inflation because “the very strong labor market makes it hard to find and retain workers.”

Economists talk a lot about the equilibrium of supply and demand, and it can be helpful to imagine labor as goods bought and sold like any other. When there is a shortage of a highly sought-after good or service, the price increases. Therefore, the low unemployment means workers have the power to negotiate their own worth at the expense of employers, leading to higher wages.


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The IRS offers a tool called “Where’s My Refund.” This allows taxpayers to check the status of their refund after providing their Social Security Number, the refund total, and their tax filing status. Read our full coverage for details on how to use the tracker.

The US economy is in a state of flux. Like the pandemic itself, the economic recovery was felt differently by different sectors and the economy is experiencing growing pains as it returns to normal service. Some industries are thriving while others are floundering, a situation that has pushed the US into a rolling recession.

The economy may not fit the definition of a recession, but certain sectors are certainly in contraction. This rolling recession can be much harder to treat because different parts of the economy are growing at very different rates.

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The IRS allows for a qualifying relative as a tax dependent, but what exactly does that mean? The tax agency uses the term ‘qualifying relative’ for people who can be claimed as a tax dependent despite not being your spouse or child.

This can include boyfriends and girlfriends, but also nieces, nephews and siblings.There are four tests used to judge eligibility for qualifying relative tax dependent status...

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Good morning and welcome to AS USA!

Hello and welcome to AS USA, your home for financial news and information this filing season. We have the latest advice and guidance from the IRS to help you submit taxes, along with information on measures to fight inflation, the debate on federal spending to raise the debt ceiling limit and more.