PORTLAND (AP) – Mainers are more likely to save their economic stimulus checks or use them to pay bills than to buy clothing or furniture or go on vacation, according to a poll released Tuesday.

A telephone survey by Market Decisions, a Portland-based research company, asked 404 Mainers what they intended to do with the government checks, which are intended to spur consumer spending and jump-start the sluggish national economy.

Overall, a third of the respondents said they would save the money while another third said they would pay bills. Twenty-four percent said they would spend the money, and 10 percent didn’t know what they would do with it.

The survey results show that the checks probably won’t give the economy as much of a jolt as intended, said Curtis Mildner, president of Market Decisions.

“The checks that are supposed to give a kick-start to the economy instead will be used to pay bills,” Mildner said.

The government is sending out checks to an estimated 130 million U.S. households with payments up to $600 for individuals and $1,200 for married couples, plus $300 per child for eligible parents. The checks started going out in late April and will continue trickling out into July.

About 750,000 individuals and couples in Maine are expected to receive more than $500 million.

One big question has been whether or not people will spend the money and give merchants a boost.

The Market Decisions’ poll, which was conducted from April 16 to May 8 and has a margin of error of 5 percentage points, asked people what they planned to do with the money. They were then asked follow-up questions to determine more specifics.

Eighteen percent of the respondents said they would save the money for a rainy day, while 16 percent said they would use it for heating fuel.

Nine percent planned to use the money on nonspecific bills, 7 percent on credit cards, and 6 percent on gasoline and car repairs.

Not everybody intends to use the money for savings or bills, however. Six percent of those polled said they’d use the money on home improvements, 5 percent on furniture or appliances, 4 percent on a trip or vacation, and 2 percent on clothes or jewelry.

The poll results are similar to national surveys asking Americans what they plan to do with their checks, Mildner said.

“A significant number of Mainers will save the check for a rainy day, in case of bad times or an emergency, reflecting their continuing pessimism about energy costs and the economy,” he said.

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