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Where the Stimulus Payment Helps Families the Most

Eligible families across the country are beginning to receive much-needed economic impact payments from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. But for high-earning families in pricey cities, the economic impact payment will make less of an impact than it will for lower earners in cities with lower costs of living.

Although the economic impact payment was not meant to be a substitute for income, some people are relying on it to pay bills and chip away at debt. Still, an economic impact payment for a household of two parents and two children ($1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child) is not enough to cover one month’s worth of estimated expenses in the largest U.S. metro areas, a LendingTree study found.

We analyzed income data in the 98 cities with the most families to determine their monthly expenses and estimate how much of a household’s monthly expenses the $3,400 economic impact payment would cover. See where families benefit most from the economic impact payment — and where it helps the least.

Key findings
Stimulus payments go the furthest in 2 Texas cities
Even in the highest-ranking cities, $3,400 won’t cover 75% of one month of expenses
City dwellers with high incomes, cost of living may not get stimulus payment
Households in certain big cities will qualify for the full check, which will cover a third of expenses
Where the stimulus payment falls short, unemployment fills the gap
Methodology

Key findings

  • The average monthly expenditure for a two-parent, two-child household is $7,531 across the 98 U.S. metro areas with the most families. A $3,400 economic impact payment would cover about 45% of one month’s budget.
  • McAllen, Texas, families will benefit the most from the economic impact payment. We estimate that they spend about $3,500 per month on expenses — that means a check from the government of $3,400 would cover just under (96.2%) one month of bills.
  • Another Texas city, El Paso, comes in second, but follows far behind. We estimate the average family here spends about $4,400 per month ($900 more than McAllen), meaning the money from the economic impact payment should provide them with 76.9% of one month’s worth of expenditures, on average.
  • Families in Bakersfield, Calif., also benefit proportionally from the checks. Bakersfield families have monthly expenditures of about $4,800 per month. Of that, the check from the government covers about 71.2%.
  • The economic impact payment won’t go quite as far for high-earning families in the most expensive cities, if they qualify at all. The average family in San Jose, Calif. takes in more than $200,000 per year, meaning they won’t qualify for an economic impact payment. Assuming they spend it at 83.1%, the national rate of income spending, their monthly budget is $14,032 per month.
  • Families in San Francisco, Boston, Bridgeport, Conn. and Washington, D.C. make between $158,000 and $189,000. Households earning between $150,000 and $198,000 will only qualify for a portion of the stimulus check.

Stimulus payments go the furthest in 2 Texas cities

Families in the McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metro area in southern Texas will fare better than families anywhere else in the country on a stimulus check of $3,400. We estimate that a stimulus check for an eligible family of four would cover 96.2% of their monthly budget.

McAllen is consistently ranked as one of the cheapest places to live in the U.S. by the Council for Community’s Cost of Living Index, which compares cost of living data for cities throughout the U.S. The average home sale price was under $160,000 in 2018, according to the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. At that price, your mortgage payment could be less than $900 per month, so it makes sense that $3,400 can go further in this Texas city.

El Paso is another Lone Star State city where the $3,400 stimulus check will go far, but there’s quite a difference for families in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots. The Economic Impact Payment could cover about three-quarters (76.9%) of a month’s worth of expenses. The estimated monthly expenditure for a family in El Paso is $4,420, over $1,000 more than the stimulus payment.

Even in the highest-ranking cities, $3,400 won’t cover 75% of one month’s expenses

The cities that experience the biggest proportional benefit still won’t be able to rely on the stimulus check to pay all their bills. In eight of the top 10 cities, the Economic Impact Payment only covers between 60% and 71% of the estimated monthly budget for a family of four. The stimulus payment will cover 50% or more of one month’s estimated expenses in just 34 of the top 98 metro areas.

City dwellers with high incomes, cost of living may not get stimulus payment


In San Jose, the average two-parent two-child household makes too much annually to qualify for a stimulus check. San Jose is one of the priciest places to live in America: It’s situated in Silicon Valley, America’s tech hub and an epicenter of high-paying jobs at Fortune 500 companies like Apple, Google and Facebook. The median home value in this area is nearly $1.1 million, according to Zillow.

Other cities that won’t get the full stimulus check include San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Bridgeport, Conn. and Boston. Families in these cities make between $158,000 and $189,000, which means that they’ll only qualify for a portion of the stimulus check.

Households in certain big cities will qualify for the full check, which will cover a third of expenses

Even when you rule out the cities where the average family earns too much to qualify for the full stimulus check, you’re still left with other large metro areas with high-earning families. These families fall under the threshold of $150,000 combined household income, so they’ll still get the entire $3,400 check. However, due to higher incomes (and the higher monthly spending that comes with it), the stimulus payment will cover about a third or slightly more of a month’s worth of expenses:

  • Philadelphia: 36.4%
  • New York: 34.6%
  • Hartford, Conn.: 34.6%
  • Seattle: 34.6%
  • Baltimore: 33.4%

Where the stimulus payment falls short, unemployment fills the gap

The goal of this study is to see how far the stimulus payment would take the average two-parent, two-child family. That being said, the Economic Impact Payment is meant to supplement a family’s income, not replace it. To help replace lost income, eligible Americans should turn to unemployment. Under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, people who are collecting unemployment compensation are eligible for an extra $600 per week.

However, there has been a historic amount of unemployment claims filed in the past month, which has caused problems for people in certain states who can’t get through to unemployment offices — more than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment since March 15 (as of time of writing). With a heavy burden on a system that’s not well prepared for such an event, it’s not clear when all eligible Americans who have filed for unemployment will begin to receive it, now weeks after getting laid off.

If you’ve felt the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, visit www.lendingtree.com/coronavirus for resources.

Methodology

In order to find where the stimulus checks help families the most, researchers looked at data on the 98 metro areas with the most families. We then found the median income for two-parent two-child families in each metro area.

To find how much of that money was spent each month, researchers multiplied monthly income by 83.1%, the percentage of income the average family puts toward monthly expenses, according to 2018 BLS data. We then found what percent of the monthly expenditures would be covered by $3,400, the amount that an eligible family with two parents and two dependent children would receive. We ranked the cities from highest to lowest based on where the stimulus check would go the furthest.

 

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