A $600 second stimulus check can cover rent in only 16% of U.S. counties

"People will burn through that [$600] as soon as they get the check," says an economist.


Second stimulus checks are on the way to many Americans — but for struggling renters, they won't go very far.

The new checks of up to $600 per person began arriving in some Americans' bank accounts Tuesday night, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, and paper checks began going out Wednesday.

Efforts to offer Americans a bigger stimulus have stalled. President Donald Trump has called for more aid, and said in a statement Sunday that the Senate would "start the process for a vote that increases checks to $2,000." But while the House voted Monday to increase direct checks to $2,000, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell later blocked that measure.

There's a big difference between how far either amount would go in helping struggling Americans cover essential bills like rent. "People will burn through that [$600] as soon as they get the check," says Wayne Vroman, an economist at the Urban Institute.

Grow's analysis of Census Bureau data shows that only 16% of counties in the United States report median rents of $600 or lower. More to the point, those counties only account for 2% of the U.S. population.

By contrast, a $2,000 stimulus check would cover the median rent in almost the entire country. Only three counties in the San Francisco Bay Area have median rents higher than $2,000, according to the Census Bureau.

Of course, the $600 figure is just the baseline for this second round of stimulus payments: The actual amount that you'll receive could be more or less depending on factors including your filing status, the size of your family, and the income detailed on your latest tax return. Check out Grow's calculator to figure out how much you could get.

While the stimulus check alone may not be a huge help, the new legislation also includes measures to help renters, including $25 billion dollars for states to provide rental assistance and an extension of the national eviction moratorium through January 2021. That aid will be critical for the nearly 20% of renters who told the Census Bureau that they're at least one month behind paying their landlords, and the 15% who aren't sure if they'll make next month's rent.

The measures are "a start," Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) recently told CNBC Make It, but adds that "we have to do whatever it takes" to keep people housed.

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