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Americans breathe a sigh of relief as $600 Covid payments roll in

"It just helps me get a couple more Christmas presents under the tree for them that they weren't going to get this year because of my financial situation," one woman said.
Image: President Donald Trump's name appears on the coronavirus economic assistance checks that were sent to citizens across the country.
A coronavirus economic assistance check from the first round of payments in April.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

Many Americans are waking up this week to at least $600 more in their bank accounts as the federal government begins to disburse the newest round of Covid-19 relief funds.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday that direct deposit payments could appear any time from that night to next week. Paper checks were mailed out beginning Wednesday, Mnuchin said, for qualifying Americans who have not registered their banking information with the IRS.

Brittany Williams, 39, said she received $1,800 — $600 each for herself and her two sons, who are 6 and 8 years old.

"Having this little bit really puts me at ease," said Williams, who is a single mother. "Just kind of gives me a second to breathe."

Williams works at a marketing company based in Colorado, but she moved to Mukilteo, Washington, during the pandemic to be closer to her parents. She has had to rely on her savings account for many necessary expenses this year after she lost some of her clients because of Covid-19 economic struggles.

"It just helps me get a couple more Christmas presents under the tree for them that they weren't going to get this year because of my financial situation," Williams said.

She's using some of the extra cash to buy Lego blocks, which her sons love but which she wasn't able to afford this year.

"They're expensive," Williams said. "They were not at the top of my able-to-do list this year, so I'm really excited to just give them a couple of things that they're really going to love and enjoy and spend quality time on."

The $600 payments are part of the nearly $900 billion Covid-19 relief package that President Donald Trump signed into law Sunday after a multiday delay during which he urged legislators to send out $2,000 checks, instead. The Democratic-led House passed a bill Monday to greenlight the larger checks, but the legislation faces a grim future in the Republican-led Senate.

For now, individuals who made up to $75,000 in 2019 will get $600, with married couples who earned up to $150,000 getting $1,200. In addition, families will get an additional $600 for each dependent under 18 in the household.

Some Americans are using the extra cash to pay down credit card debt accrued as they struggled to find work.

Michelle Soto, 25, said she was part of the early layoffs to hit the tourism industry in Philadelphia. When she got her stimulus check Thursday, she immediately made a credit card payment.

Soto said she drained her savings account in the first months of the pandemic, trying to keep up with rent and student loan payments while unemployed. She lost her lease and was effectively homeless until she was able to move in with her mother in Minnesota.

"I'm trying to make sure that I am keeping my cat alive, keeping myself alive and trying not to default on any payments of any of the debts that I do have, and then trying to find a way to get health insurance before I turn 26," Soto said.

Her cat underwent surgery this year, which she also paid for with her credit card. Her storage unit, grocery bills and utilities are also draining her bank account dry. She has been receiving around $150 in weekly unemployment benefits, less than she did at the start of the pandemic, although that is also likely to increase because of the new relief bill.

Both women, like many other Americans, hope the Senate will approve the $2,000 checks.

"It's very clear how out of touch they are when they think that $600 will change anybody's life," Soto said. "$600 is a lot of money for a 12-year-old. $600 is nothing for an adult who has responsibilities and debt and bills and children."