The Check is in the Mail

It seems there’s been yet another twist in this year’s economic stimulus check drama—and it might be in your favor.

Uncle Sam is set to distribute about $10 billion in stimulus rebate credits next year, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal. No, Congress hasn’t approved a new round of stimulus checks (though the idea is currently under debate). Instead, it appears that the economic-stimulus law (which was enacted this February) states that checks are based on your income and family situation in either 2007 or 2008.

That means if you earned too much in 2007, but your situation changed in 2008—say, you were laid off from your high-paying job—you could receive a recovery credit when you file your taxes next year. OK, so a lot of us don’t make that much money anyway. But there’s another way to benefit. Maybe you got the standard $600 check this summer, but had a baby this fall. That means you should be eligible for a $300 child credit next year based on your expanded family.

Whatever your personal situation, the news couldn’t come at a better time for the economy. Since January, 1.2 million more people left the job market—most of them laid off. We’re at a 6.5% unemployment rate right now, and could hit 8% by the end of 2009—the highest since 1982.

Even if you don’t stand to gain from the rebates, there still might be a check somewhere with your name on it. The IRS has 279,000 unclaimed stimulus checks adding up to a cool $163 million. Some were deposited into the wrong account, thanks to IRS error (wouldn’t it be great if the IRS got dinged for every mistake they made, like we do?) or an incorrect address. If you haven’t seen your check yet, you have until Nov. 28 to visit the IRS Web site and make sure your address is up-to-date. Or maybe you didn’t file because you didn’t make enough money, but failed to realize you must file to qualify for a check. If so, contact the IRS before it’s too late!

Of course, before you start drooling over the thought of that fat government check you’re still owed, keep in mind that—once in your hands—it goes fast. Gas, groceries, bills—sometimes it seems like the more you make, the more you spend. And that’s exactly what the government wants you to do, because it feeds the economy. But there’s a better way to hang onto that money. Feed yourself first. Put it towards paying down your debt. It might seem like you’re only making a small dent, but when you reduce your debt, you also reduce the interest you pay on it—so you get more bang for your buck in the end. Need advice on managing your debt? DebtStoppers is here to guide you.

It was too much credit that got us into this mess. Let’s start digging our way back out.

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