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Coronavirus recession: How bad it could get and what it means for you

The US economy sank for a second quarter in a row as Congress continues to iron out another stimulus package. Here's how to find some help.

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Americans are cutting back on spending as they plan for a recession that might not end until the coronavirus pandemic is over.

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For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO website.

Even with the next stimulus bill and a second stimulus payment on the horizon, bouncing back from the coronavirus recession, deemed the fastest recession in US history," isn't going to be quick or easy. The US economy shattered records when it plunged 32.9% in the second quarter, according to data released by the Commerce Department (PDF) this week.

Among the factors contributing to the problem is the new surge of coronavirus cases that erupted when states began to haphazardly reopen after lockdown. State governments across the country then pressed pause on their plans to reopen and many even reversed course, temporarily shuttering businesses like restaurants and bars mere weeks after they opened back up.

If you find yourself among the millions of Americans who've experienced economic hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many of the economic safeguards put into place at the start of the lockdown have either dried up or will soon, making matters exponentially worse. A renewal of enhanced unemployment benefits and eviction bans are chief among the issues being debated in a second stimulus payment.

So, what does the road to economic recovery look like from here? We've put together the latest news about the coronavirus recession, where to find help, what makes a recession and the government's response. Note that this story is intended to provide an overview, not to serve as financial advice. It updates frequently as the situation develops. 

Read more: How to estimate your 2020 tax refund

Latest coronavirus recession news

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Where to find personal financial resources to help you prepare

If you've experienced financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus recession, here are some tools to help you regain your financial balance. 

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America's decade of growth is over. Now we face an economic plunge.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When will the recession end?

Unfortunately, we don't have answers to that question. From an economist's point of view, a recession ends when certain market requirements are met. From a personal point of view, you might wonder most about your ability to work, pay your bills and secure your financial future. 

Economists and experts agree that the economy won't recover until the coronavirus pandemic is contained -- without triggering another wave of infections when lockdown measures are released. That'll happen either through herd immunity, an effective treatment for COVID-19, a coronavirus vaccine or some combination of all three.

Several vaccine candidates have shown promise in human trials. Even so, it may still be another year or longer before anything is approved for widespread use. The development of a coronavirus vaccine is fast-paced and details change daily.

How the government has tried to bolster the economy

The $2 trillion stimulus package passed as part of the CARES Act in March represents the US government's first attempt at thwarting a recession. The economic relief law included stimulus payments of up to $1,200 for most US taxpayers, as well as a loan program for businesses to keep paying their employees. 

A debate over a second stimulus check is currently working its way through Congress, but still appears weeks away from being finalized. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has indicated it will continue to hold interest rates close to 0% for the foreseeable future, which often has the effect of encouraging more borrowing, which leads to more spending -- and more spending generally improves the economy.

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Spending money at locally owned businesses (while wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing) can help keep your economy afloat during the recession.

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

How can I help?

It's easy to feel helpless, but if you're feeling financially secure or have time to give, there are ways to make a difference. My CNET colleague Katie Conner has some excellent recommendations for things you can do to help your local community and businesses, including no-cost contributions like online volunteering or donating blood, as well as ordering take-out or delivery, and buying restaurant gift cards. 

Other local businesses like bookstores, gardening centers, toy shops and boutiques may have a website where you can support them with a curbside order, if they remain closed.

The best advice I've heard so far about how you can individually help prop up the economy is this: Spend to the best of your ability and within your means.

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