$1,400, $600, $1,200 stimulus checks: How the 3 payments differ

March 3, 2021 0 By boss

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The three stimulus checks take different paths.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The outlines of the third stimulus check look different from the first two payments, as Congress continues to rework the eligibility requirements and payment amount. But the goal for the new payment is the same as the first and second checks: send money as soon as possible to people to start spending. To better help struggling Americans, with each payment Congress has reworked how to achieve that aim and has reworked how much money to deliver and who would qualify for the payment. With the new $1,400 check, Congress continues to fine-tune the payment qualifications, which could result in a third check that looks much different to the first $1,200 check or the second $600 payment.

The new round of stimulus payments are part of the $1.9 trillion relief package that House and Senate Democrats are pushing to approve this month. In addition to sending $1,400 payments for individuals, families and dependents, the relief bill that’s currently with the Senate is also set to renew unemployed worker benefits through August and increase funding for COVID-19 vaccine distribution. A $15-an-hour federal minimum wage hike that Democrats hoped to include in the bill is reportedly off the table.

For a year, since that initial stimulus check, we’ve studied how Congress designed the first two payments to support families and assist the economy. From reading through the version of the bill now with the Senate, we also have a good idea of how lawmakers intend to meet the same goals with the third check. Here’s how the three stimulus checks are similar and different.


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Each of the three stimulus checks is different

With each round of stimulus payments, the House and Senate has reworked the payment amount and eligibility guidelines. While we know most of the proposed details of the third stimulus check — and they could change up to when the bill becomes law — there is one wild card. The IRS is in the middle of tax-filing season, so it’s unclear if the agency may not be able to turn around these third payments in a few days, as it did the second stimulus payments, or if there could be a delay in sending out the payments. As the Senate takes up the bill this week, Democrats are considering lowering the upper income limit to receive a payment.

Three stimulus checks, compared

Third check (in the works) Second check First check
Maximum total (per adult) $1,400 $600 $1,200
Dependents (flat rate) $1,400 (any age) $600 (16 and younger) $500 (16 and younger)
Income to receive maximum amount Under: $75,000 (single); $112,500 (head of household); $150,000 (married) Under: $75,000 (single); $112,500 (head of household); $150,000 (married) Under: $75,000 (single); $112,500 (head of household); $150,000 (married)
Single taxpayer upper limit $100,000, or $80,000 if Senate changes $87,000 $100,000
Head of household upper limit $150,000, or $120,000 if Senate changes $124,500 $146,000
Filing jointly upper limit $200,000, or $160,000 if Senate changes $174,000 $198,000
Citizenship Mixed-status families, where one member has a Social Security number Citizens and noncitizens with a Social Security number Citizens and noncitizens with a Social Security number
Date approved By March 14 Dec. 27, 2020 March 27, 2020
First payments sent To be determined Dec. 29, 2020 April 13, 2020
Final payments issued Dec. 31, 2021 Feb. 16, 2021 Feb. 16, 2021
Number of payments made To be determined Over 147 million Over 160 million
Total dollar amount distributed To be determined $142 billion $270 billion

For more information, here’s what you need to know about stimulus checks today, including how to claim any missing stimulus money on your 2020 tax return and how to track your tax refund online.

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