Create a Stimulus Money Stability Plan

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In March, Congress passed a $2 trillion emergency relief package, which seeks to help millions of Americans survive this economic and health crisis. As part of the package, Congress is sending payments to 125 million people. Individuals earning up to $75,000 will receive $1,200 and couples earning under $150,000 will receive $2,400. Benefits start to phase out above $75,000 for single filers and $150,000 for married filers. People with children will receive an additional $500 per child.  Check out this stimulus check calculator to find out how much you’ll receive. 

If you have not received your payment yet, use the IRS Get My Payment resource to find out when you can expect your payment to arrive. 

Stimulus Money Stability Plan

When you get your payment, what should you do? The answer will be different for everyone. To help you make smart decisions that will support you now and in the future, we have created this Stimulus Money Stability Plan.

Step 1: Pay critical expenses

Pay regular bills, buy food and pay rent or a mortgage first. It is important to take care of these essential parts of life before other financial commitments. 

Help with regular expenses 

United Way of Central Illinois offers assistance with basic needs in several ways:

  • 211 – This vital service provides caring, expert help in our community. Members of the 211 team can provide assistance with utilities, affordable housing and rent, transportation, and food as well as many other services. Call  211 or 1-888-865-9903

Step 2: Pay your taxes

The IRS extended the tax filing deadline to July 15. If you have not paid your taxes and believe you will owe money, you could use your stimulus money to cover part or all of your payment.  

Help with taxes

In partnership with H&R Block, United Way offers every household with a simple return the opportunity to file their taxes for free through MyFreeTaxes

We also offer the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program which provides low- and moderate-income individuals and families with free, reliable assistance in filing federal tax returns. VITA site hours of operations have shifted due to current Illinois regulations. 

Step 3: Pay down your debt

Making a significant payment on a credit card or loan that has an outstanding balance will help reduce the interest paid on the account, allowing you to keep more of your money in the future. Before making a payment check with the company that holds your debt, as many organizations are offering crisis relief such as deferred payments or waived interest.

Help with debt 

United Way teamed up with the SunTrust Foundation to provide people with straightforward, concrete actions to tackle real-life problems that impact their finances. This free, interactive website, provides short-term financial help and helps individuals plan for long-term financial goals. Visit today!

Step 4: Start or add to an emergency fund

Most experts recommend having enough money in your emergency fund to cover three to six months of expenses. Your stimulus money will likely not fully cover that amount, but it can be a starting point or a way to boost what you are already doing. 

Step 5: Support causes or local businesses

If you are fortunate enough to have the above steps covered or have money remaining after taking steps one through four, you could use your stimulus payment to help people in need. Even as our economy begins to open, local businesses continue to struggle. While it’s convenient to shop online, using your stimulus money to purchase items from local stores, many of which are offering gift cards or no-contact sales and pick-up, can help ensure small businesses are able to fully open down the road.

Additionally, individuals and families continue to face challenges such as wage loss, rent assistance, and not having enough food. There are many nonprofits in our area supporting local people, including United Way of Central Illinois. Find out more about what we are doing with our partnership with the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln. 

For the 2020 tax year, taxpayers can now deduct up to $300 of cash donations to qualifying organizations without itemizing deductions. This is called an “above the line” deduction. In the past, when you filed your tax return you had to itemize your deductions in order to claim tax deductible donations to charity. This year, you can deduct up to $300 and you will not have to itemize to receive the standard deduction. 

Step 6: Make long-term investments

One final way to make the most out of stimulus money is to invest it. If you have children, opening a 529 plan to save for their college education can be a sound investment. Opening or contributing to an individual retirement account (IRA) or other retirement accounts are also good options.  

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