As Congress returns from its Thanksgiving break, lawmakers will face a huge bit of unfinished business left over from before the election: the need to give the economy and households more relief from COVID-19.\r\nThe coronavirus crisis is getting worse in the U.S., with cases soaring, lockdowns reappearing and layoffs growing again. But it's been eight months since Congress approved direct cash payments to Americans, to beef up family budgets and encourage spending to help the overall economy.\r\nCongressional leaders, President-elect Joe Biden (pictured), departing President Donald Trump and officials in his administration have all said they support another round of those $1,200 "stimulus checks." But negotiators have been unable to get a deal on a new aid package.\r\nHere's what we know right now about the chances you'll get another stimulus payment before the end of the year.\r\nAmericans are eager for more government cash\r\nLast week, more than 125 influential economists signed an open letter in support of new stimulus checks, which the experts said "are one of the quickest, most equitable and most effective ways to get families and the economy back on track."\r\nAmericans say additional relief would help decide whether the holiday season is gleeful or gloomy. A Franklin Templeton-Gallup survey found 16% planned to spend more on holiday gifts this year \u2014 but that jumped to 22% if the government comes through with more $1,200 relief payments.\r\nMeanwhile, 37% said they would spend less this holiday season, but that dropped to 30% if the government provided second stimulus checks.\r\nTreasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told CNBC before Thanksgiving that Republicans want to sit down soon with members of the opposing party to draft a bill "for the people that really need it." Mnuchin negotiated nearly nonstop with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi before the election, but they couldn't get an agreement.\r\nThe White House's previous proposals called for more stimulus checks. Aid measures supported by Democrats also have included new direct payments for Americans.\r\nWhat's the possible timing for 2nd checks?\r\nThe two major political parties have been miles apart on the size and scope of a new rescue bill. President-elect Biden and other Democrats think the government should spend at least $2.2 trillion, while Republicans favor a price tag as low as $500 billion.\r\nA former top economic adviser to President Barack Obama said on Sunday that the situation is getting so desperate that Democrats should settle for what they can get right now.\r\n"So if they have to accept half a loaf, then they should take half a loaf and then let's try to get another half of a loaf," Austan Goolsby said on CNN.\r\nA survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that close to 60% of Americans used their first stimulus checks to pay for basic expenses like groceries and utilities.\r\nSome also invested the cash or found other, unspecified purposes for the money. Those may have included buying affordable life insurance; sales of life insurance policies have surged this year in the shadow of the pandemic.\r\nBiden has been pushing for a quick deal to keep the COVID recession from worsening, though he has said Republicans may be more willing to compromise once Trump is out of the White House.\r\nIf a breakthrough can come quickly this week \u2014 and if it includes new direct payments \u2014 Americans could start receiving money by the end of December, based on how fast the cash started moving the first time.\r\nBut if the negotiations fail again, a deal might have to wait for the new Congress and new administration in January \u2014 meaning no stimulus checks before February.\r\nWhat to do in the meantime\r\nIf you can\u2019t wait until next month or later to maybe get another infusion of cash from the government, here are a few ideas to help you find an extra $1,200 on your own.\r\nPull back on your spending. Get rid of any subscription services you don\u2019t use. Cook more of your own meals and stop ordering delivery so much. And download a free price-checking browser extension that will save you money every time you shop online.\r\nGet a grip on your debt. If you\u2019ve been overrelying on your credit cards during the pandemic, you\u2019re likely racking up a ton of interest. You may be able to stop adding to your debt \u2014 and make it go away sooner \u2014 by rolling your balances into a single debt consolidation loan at a lower interest rate.\r\nCut your insurance costs. Americans have reduced their driving this year, and as a result, many car insurance companies have lowered their rates. If your insurer won\u2019t cut you a break, it\u2019s time to start shopping around for a better option. You might also be able to save on your homeowners insurance, by comparing quotes from multiple companies.\r\nRefinance your mortgage. Mortgage rates are lower than ever right now, and refinancing your current loan could save you a ton of money. According to the mortgage technology and data provider Black Knight, 19.4 million U.S. homeowners could bring down their payments by an average $309 per month through a refi.