Stimulus Checks Are Arriving;
Who’s Spending, Saving?
The federal government began issuing the second round of stimulus checks in early January. The Missourian released a poll Jan. 6 asking community members how they would use the $600, and 48 people responded two days later. They answered the question: Are you saving or spending the money?
“It’s already in the savings account,” said Terri Ritter, a Washington resident who works as the kitchen manager at Labadie Elementary School. She bought a bed in December, and she is replacing the money she took out her account to pay for it. “We just took that money and put it right back in the savings account.”
Robertsville resident Robert Willoughby said he is spending his stimulus on his travel plans at the end of January or early February.
“We decided if we go spend it on something like that. It would benefit more people than just in the immediate area,” Willoughby, a retired public safety officer, said. “We decided we would spend it in Texas because that was one of the areas hit hardest.”
Two-thirds of respondents said they were spending the money, and one-third said they were saving it.
Although the checks’ applications varied from furniture purchases to future crisis saving funds, about half of the respondents said they would use the money to pay bills, including mortgage, credit card and utility expenses.
Others said it was going toward child care, home improvements, rainy day funds and more.
The stimulus checks have been sent to residents following a year with record high unemployment rates due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. unemployment rate reached its peak in 2020 at 14.7 percent in April, according to the economic research by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. It was at 6.7 percent in November, which is the most up-to-date information published by the Reserve.
Missouri’s unemployment was consistently lower, reaching 9.8 percent in April and May. In November, 3.9 percent of people were unemployed. In Franklin County, the May unemployment rate spiked to 10.9 percent. It sank to 3.8 percent six months later.
Rebecca Williams, a St. Clair resident, said she will be spending her new stimulus check on bills as well as toward clothes and a second laptop for her two sons, ages 11 and 14. She is also going to distribute the money toward a pair of pants for herself and to enroll in online classes at East Central College.
“Instead of blowing it on things we don’t need, I figured this was pretty beneficial,” she said, “and my boys are hitting their growing spurts, so I figure they need some new clothes.”
Washington resident Bobbi Holtmeyer is putting her stimulus check toward household expenses. The optometrist technician built her home seven years ago, and she sets money aside after taxes each year to update it. This money will go toward a new deck and concrete.
Jo Schaper, Pacific resident and owner of Geo Communications Services, said she is dedicating the money to food and utilities. She said she would buy local to support the community’s businesses.
Kate White, a Union resident who is retired now but worked for the U.S. Air Force and state and federal government, said she is donating the full $600.
“I’m retired, and all of my income has been safe and protected the whole time, and I know a lot of people are in far worse conditions, so if I can help, I can help,” she said.
Like this round of checks, community members spent money from the first stimulus package in a variety of ways.
Holtmeyer used the $1,200 to purchase Invisalign braces to straighten her teeth. Schaper spent her money on food and utilities. Willoughby went to Texas a first time, though to visit his daughter in Fort Worth instead of the coastal trip he plans now.