Did the Stimulus Checks Help People with Unexpected Expenses?

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The brief’s key findings are:

  • Before COVID-19, many households said they would have trouble paying a $400 unexpected expense.
  • The question is how COVID, with its mix of job losses and stimulus checks, has affected households’ financial well-being.
  • While the final impact of the three stimulus payments will not be known for several years, preliminary data suggest that:
      • the first check served as a lifeline to cover essential bills; and
      • the second and third checks helped many, even those who lost their jobs, build up savings or pay off debt.
  • What remains unclear is how long these favorable balance sheet effects will last.