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How Kansas Citians And Other Americans Are Spending Their $1,400 Stimulus Checks

Friends and teachers Lauren Ragland, left, and Karen Hannah were fortunate enough to have steady work during the coronavirus pandemic, "but (the stimulus) is still very much a help," said Ragland.
Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
Friends and teachers Lauren Ragland, left, and Karen Hannah were fortunate enough to have steady work during the coronavirus pandemic, "but (the stimulus) is still very much a help," said Ragland.

Whether they were on the financial edge before or not, Kansas Citians agree the stimulus payments are a welcome, and needed, relief.

It’s been about a week since the federal government began issuing the third round of coronavirus stimulus checks, and plenty of Kansas Citians have already begun spending their share.

“That stimulus check just left my bank account as fast as it hit,” said one Waldo resident on Twitter.

Many more who have yet to receive the funds are already making plans for it, but one thing is clear: For Kansas Citians of all income-levels, the stimulus could not have come soon enough.

The checks are part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which includes $1,400 in direct payments to millions of Americans. It follows a $600 stimulus approved in December and a payment of $1,200 issued under the original CARES Act in 2020.

Researchers at Columbia University's Center on Poverty & Social Policy estimated 18 million people were lifted out of poverty by the federal relief package.

U.S. Census Bureau data from the end of February shows 57% of Americans surveyed were spending their stimulus money on food, 44% on utilities, and 35% on household supplies. About a quarter of people surveyed were paying down debts, or making rent or vehicle payments.

“I'm planning on saving all of it because I have things I'm trying to save for,” said Karen Hannah, who lives in Liberty, Missouri. Hannah joins about 15% of Americans, who said they’d save or invest with the money.

“I really want to take my stimulus money and work on getting in a vehicle.”

Hannah’s work as a teacher was affected in obvious ways by the coronavirus pandemic, but her paycheck did not go away.

“So really, financially, I'm okay,” she said.

Her friend Lauren Ragland, who is also a school teacher, was in a similar situation.

“But it's still very much a help,” Ragland said.

“I probably will take some of it to, of course, to pay some (student loan) bills … and then I will invest some of it,” she said. “And then I may have a little bit of fun — but I want to be wise with it, too.”

Turning the tide

Like about 30% of Americans surveyed by the Census Bureau, Andres Kodaka said all of his stimulus money went toward paying off old debt.

The analyst at a startup lives in Brookside with his daughter and child, and getting rid of a lingering credit card tab from when he was a student was important for the whole family.

“What it lets us do is, you know, focus our savings for, we're trying to buy a house,” Kodaka said.

Amanda Bain Wysocki is a social worker who lives with her husband in Kansas City, Missouri.

“We had been planning to get new windows for our house right before all of COVID happened,” she said,” and then we just kind of put those plans on hold, not really knowing what our income was going to be like over last year.”

After the federal government’s $2,800 injection, the couple plans to finally move forward with the window project. But Bain Wysocki wants to make sure the money she spends helps a business-owner who needs it most.

“We're wanting to seek out kind of a local, like, a smaller business,” she said. “It was just really important to us that we can take that money and, you know, try to put it back into those local places that really have been hit the hardest.”

“As someone who's still like an early career professional, I feel like getting these checks this year has really helped me to feel more financially stable,” said Ruanda McFerren, who works in local government. “Just like having that extra cushion.”

This time around, McFerren plans to spend her cash on some routine car maintenance and taking her cats to the veterinarian, “because they're long overdue for a checkup,” she said. A previous $600 stimulus check went toward some emergency dental work.

McFerren said she’s been heartened by the stimulus program because it feels like the federal government is trying to take care of her.

“I think that a lot of people have seen that there are ways for government to get more creative with, you know, the social support network and how that's all delivered,” she said.

Kansas City resident Kyle Brown wants to use the stimulus money to help fund his own business.
Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
Kansas City resident Kyle Brown wants to use the stimulus money to help fund his own business.

Kyle Brown lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and works security at Arrowhead Stadium. The 21-year-old said steady work throughout the pandemic will allow him to use the stimulus money, which he hadn’t received yet, to build something for the future.

“I want to start a Black-owned security business, or a Black-owned clothing line — haven't figured out which one yet.” Brown said. “Whatever one takes my passion first.”

He admits the cash isn’t much, “but, you know, for people that ain't got nothing and trying to do something, it's a lot,” he said. “I just want people to recognize what they're getting and understand that this is an opportunity for everybody to do something with themselves.”

As culture editor, I oversee KCUR’s coverage of race, culture, the arts, food and sports. I work with reporters to make sure our stories reflect the fullest view of the place we call home, so listeners and readers feel primed to explore the places, projects and people who make up a vibrant Kansas City. Email me at luke@kcur.org.
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