Save, spend, or support? These six steps can help you make a decision.

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 Economic Impact 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. It is our hope that this Stimulus Money Stability Plan can help you make smart decisions that will support you now and in the future.

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 payments that have the biggest impact on your life before other financial commitments.

Connect with 211 if you need help with regular expenses
As a free information and resource referral service, 211 provides caring, expert help in our community. Members of the 211 team can connect you with available resources, organizations, and programs to help you with utilities, affordable housing and rent, transportation, food, as well as many other services. Call 211, text your Zip code to 898211, download the 211 app, or visit

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. 

Get free 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.

In closing our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which provides low- and moderate-income individuals and families with free, reliable assistance in filing federal tax returns, another option to consider is Free File Online. Use the IRS Lookup Tool to see if you qualify.

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
If you’re looking for extra assistance, we partner with Polk County Financial Empowerment Center to offer our community financial education classes and financial coaching services. During current social distancing measures, help can be found at

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, the need for rent assistance, and not having enough food. There are many nonprofits in our area supporting the community, including United Way of Central Iowa.

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. 

Find information to help you feel financially secure at MySmartMoney.

Join the fight. Your gift can help people in our community survive a crisis and ensure they can thrive afterward.

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Topics: Financial Stability, Essential Needs

Sara Engelhart

Written by Sara Engelhart

Sara Engelhart is United Way of Central Iowa's former Strategic Communications Operations Manager.