With the cost of gas approaching an average of $5 nationally and reaching even higher in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has recommended a $400 gas stimulus check for California residents with one registered vehicle.
Drivers with two registered vehicles will be able to claim an additional $400 check, making for a maximum stimulus payment of $800. While the legislation has not yet reached Newsom’s desk, the governor is working hard to get the state legislature to pass the bill.
But gas prices show no sign of slowing, and JPMorgan analysts warn the national average might surpass $6 by August. This raises some important questions.
Will a $400 check have a meaningful impact on the lives of Americans hurt by rising inflation? And how long will a stimulus check last for the average driver?
Will It Help?
For Americans driving large vehicles, a car tank might hold 15 gallons of gas – sometimes more. The average gas tank size for most Americans was 12 gallons as of 2020.
In recent days, the average cost of gas per gallon rose to $4.71. That means the average American now spends at least $56.52 to fill up their vehicle. Drivers with larger cars whose tanks hold 18 gallons should expect to pay as much as $84.78.
At these prices, an individual driver receiving a $400 gas stimulus check will fill up their car somewhere between four and seven times using the money from the proposed stimulus check.
According to a study from 2020, over 82% of U.S. drivers fill up their tank less than twice a month. That was in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, however. With the U.S. economy returning to normal and millions of Americans once more commuting to work, people have probably returned to the pre-pandemic standard of filling up their car roughly once per week.
For California, the figures are even worse. The American Automobile Association reported that the average price of a gallon of gas in that state has reached $6.07.
At this rate, drivers in California could spend anywhere between $72.84 and $109.26 – meaning an individual $400 gas stimulus check will last a single Californian a month or less. An $800 check could last longer, assuming that the second vehicle is not used by a driver’s significant other or family member.
Unless gas prices drop significantly across the board, Newsom and California Democrats will soon find themselves back to square one.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.