Giving, saving, bills: How Minnesotans are spending their stimulus checks

How Minnesotans are spending their stimulus checks

A blank check from United States Treasury
Blank checks are seen on an idle press at the Philadelphia Regional Financial Center in 2008, which disburses payments on behalf of federal agencies, in Philadelphia. We asked Minnesotans what they plan to do with their federal coronavirus stimulus money.
Matt Rourke | AP

The federal government stimulus checks are beginning to arrive in many U.S. taxpayers’ bank accounts.

Congress’ attempt at helping soothe the economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has most people getting $1,200 each, plus $500 more per eligible child. The benefit tapers to nothing starting with people with income above $75,000.

MPR News asked Minnesotans what they’re going to do with the money, and you responded in droves — we received well over 100 replies to queries on our website and on Twitter.

Four main themes emerged from respondents: they’re donating all or part of the money to those in need; putting it in savings; using it to pay taxes or bills; or spending it at small businesses to support them in trying times.

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Striking generosity, concern for others

A photo of a man in business attire with a grey background.
Adam Feinberg
Courtesy Photo

Adam Feinberg, a 30-year-old chemist who lives in St. Paul, concluded other people need money more than he does. He got the full $1,200, but quickly got rid of it:

“I already gave it all away. I announced on social media that I really didn’t need the money so I was just going to give it to people that did need it so if they didn’t get a paycheck or if they were laid off,” he said.

Feinberg settled on $100 per person — first come, first served.

“There were some folks that were laid off, some folks that were unemployed already and had trouble accessing medicine, some folks that just wanted to be able to buy groceries,” he said. “I can’t make masks. I can’t make ventilators. But I figured that this was a good way that I could help out.”

A woman with bright pink short hair and glasses.
Linda Sorensen
Courtesy Image

Linda Sorensen of Oronoco, Minn., donated her money, too.

“My husband and I are both retired. We’re both economically pretty secure and so we’ve been kind of trying to figure out what to do with the money. The plan is to try to help some people directly that we know,” she said. “Some of us are feeling very blessed and so I think it’s a desire to really try to help other people.”

Jonathan Kane said he’ll give his money to Second Harvest Heartland and St. Stephen’s: “I'm lucky to have a fairly secure job and situation.”

Kelley Haldeman said she’s giving hers away, too: “I'll donate it to my local NAACP.”

Putting the money away for a rainy day

Ben Findlay
Ben Findlay
Courtesy Photo

Ben Findlay, 37, lives in St. Paul with his wife. They’re both working now, but are saving the stimulus money — he said their job situation could “change at any moment.”

“I don’t need more,” he said. “I’ve got Netflix to watch. I’ve got old video games to play and we’re just kind of riding it out.”

Brian Wietgrefe
Brian Wietgrefe
Courtesy Photo

Brian Wietgrefe of Minneapolis is giving away some of his money, but putting some away for the future.

“I’m going to donate $200 to Joe Biden for president. I’m going to give my nieces $100 each for their college funds,” Wietgrefe said. “I’m going to hoard the rest in case there’s a depression coming. “

Ariana Hoyer is currently on furlough from her job at a nonprofit, she said, “so my stimulus check is going to savings and making payments on my loans. I want to make sure that I can survive if I'm not able to go back to work for a long time.”

Paying off bills, taxes

Pam Rupnow said she can’t save or donate her government cash. She’s an optometrist in Farmington and said she needs the money to cover basic living expenses.

“Bills. Electricity [and] all those kinds of bills,” she said. “I do own a business and I am paying my staff. I haven’t laid them off. I have not paid myself in three payrolls and so my situation isn’t great.”

Kurt Schulz said his check is going to pay “essential bills like electric and phone.” He said $1,200 covers just one month of rent for many people and called the amount “grossly inadequate.”

Debbie Ortman would like to give her entire check to food shelves, she said, “but I will only be able to donate $100, as the rest has to go to paying bills.”

Supporting local businesses

Many people said they’d use the money at small businesses, buying things like meals or gardening supplies. Several people said they’d buy gift cards to help small businesses with their disrupted cash flows.

Alice Campbell said she doesn’t need the check. “So [I] will try to use it to support small nearby businesses, probably buying gift cards that I can use sporadically over the next six months,” she said.