First big wave of stimulus is over - $92 billion

For those Americans who filed their tax returns by April 15, the last of the paper checks were sent out Friday.

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By Catherine Clifford, staff writer

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NEW YORK ( -- The Internal Revenue Service mailed out the last of 112 million stimulus checks on Friday to people who filed their tax returns by April 15. A total of $92 billion has been pumped into the nation's sagging economy since last April.

The IRS will continue to send checks to people who got extensions to file their 2007 returns. The IRS said it will get checks to stragglers by the end of the year if they file by Oct. 15.

The IRS estimates that it will send out 12 million more checks, according to a spokeswoman.

Tax filers who miss the Oct. 15 deadline and still qualify for a payment can obtain their stimulus payment by filing a 2008 tax return.

Keeping tabs. In the week ended July 11, the Treasury Department sent out 7.5 million economic stimulus payments totaling $5.7 billion.

The program "has met the objective - it put some money in people's pockets when the economy was really struggling," said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wachovia (WB, Fortune 500). "The program may have provided the economy just enough relief to avoid a technical recession," he said.

Retail sales numbers for the month of June indicate that consumers are stretching their stimulus cash as much as possible. Discount retail chains, such asWal-mart (WMT, Fortune 500) and Costco (COST, Fortune 500), posted strong results while slightly more expensive clothing stores, like Gap andLimited (LTD, Fortune 500), did not perform as well.

Vitner said he expects consumer spending to slip in August, when consumers will have mostly spent their rebate checks.

About the program. The stimulus program was enacted earlier this year in the wake of a slowdown tied to the credit crisis and the end of the housing boom.

"If it helps avoid a recession, it will have been well worth it," said Vitner. "If the economy falls into recession, then it will pretty much have been a waste."

To qualify for a stimulus payment, individuals and households must file a 2007 income tax return. Single taxpayers with adjusted gross income of less than $75,000 last year will get checks of as much as $600. Joint filers with adjusted gross income of less than $150,000 were eligible for a rebate of up to $1,200.

In addition, parents will also receive $300 per child under 17; there is no cap on the number of qualifying children eligible. To top of page

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