In theory, recipients of the checks would use their rebate checks to purchase more consumer goods and help stimulate business.
Since late April, the Treasury has distributed more than $50 billion of the projected $100 billion in tax rebates, to be sent to 132 million U.S. households.
However, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, which issues a weekly sales survey that receives widespread attention as an economic indicator, chain stores have seen an increase in sales only once during the last six weeks.
Instead of cashing their checks and heading on shopping trips to the local mall, many Americans are using the rebates of their own tax money simply to survive. A May survey by the National Retail Federation indicated that about 17.2 million rebate recipients planned to use some of the money to buy gasoline.
Steven Snow and his wife, Julia, of Dallas, spent their $600 rebate on gas and groceries. “We spent it just trying to live,” Mr. Snow told the New York Times. “They wanted everyone to spend it on stuff they don’t need from Wal-Mart and Home Depot. But really, how far does $600 go?”