As stimulus payments from the federal government began landing in millions of Americans’ bank accounts this week, San Antonio residents viewed the windfall as a way to shore up their own reserves during uncertain times.

The U.S. Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service on Saturday began depositing payments of between $1,200 and $3,400 into individual bank accounts.

The payments are part of the $2.2 trillion economic relief package passed by Congress in March to help ease the financial pain of an economy frozen in place by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent Gallup poll of nearly 8,000 people found that 35 percent of U.S. adults intend to use the money primarily to pay bills. Another 16 percent say they will purchase essential items, such as food or gas, and 29 percent expect to save or invest it.

We asked Rivard Report readers about their plans for the cash, and several said they planned to pay bills.

Some readers said they would use the payment for medical debt, including Katie Vela, who is still paying for care after the birth of her daughter in September 2019. Others mentioned making donations to charity, including the San Antonio Food Bank, but only after paying off some of their bills.

Most said they would save the rest, including one who said she would put the money toward a downpayment on a house she hopes to buy this fall.

For Carol Gonzales, the payment will be used to keep a roof over her head because both she and her husband have had their hours and pay reduced in the past few weeks.

“It won’t get touched for anything other than mortgage and only if we need it,” she said in a Facebook post. “I just don’t trust that this virus and thus the economic damage is over yet. And I don’t trust that the recovery will come as quickly or as thoroughly as some are predicting.”

She added that they have cut back on spending, and even when they do return to work, they are planning to keep a tighter budget than before.

About 150 million Americans and others are expected to receive the one-time payment, with the first payments going to people who filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return and gave the IRS their direct-deposit information.

Single filers earning up to $75,000 a year are set to receive a payment of $1,200, and married couples earning up to $150,000 a year will receive $2,400. Parents of children under age 17 receive another $500 per child.

While an estimated 80 million should be receiving payment by Wednesday, the Treasury Department and IRS launched the same day a free web application that allows taxpayers to provide their banking information, instead of waiting for a check to arrive in the mail, and to track the status of their payment.

Americans who receive their stimulus checks in the mail will see President Donald Trump’s name in the memo line – a decision that was widely criticized as political maneuvering and the first time in history a president’s name will appear on an IRS disbursement.

Within the next two weeks, most eligible Americans should have received a stimulus payment, according to the Treasury.

For those with outstanding debt, however, the payment might never make it into their hands. Debt collectors can legally garnish bank accounts and seize stimulus checks. But some states have asked the Treasury to exempt stimulus checks from garnishment and make sure that those who most need the payment can get it.

While attorneys general in Massachusetts and Ohio have already exempted stimulus checks, no such action has been taken in Texas. A call to the state attorney general, Ken Paxton, was not returned on Wednesday.

Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the business beat reporter at the San Antonio Report.