$1,400, $600, $1,200 stimulus checks: The major differences compared

March 1, 2021 0 By boss

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The three stimulus checks follow different plans.


Sarah Tew/CNET

With each of the three stimulus checks Congress has approved, the objective has remained the same: get money into people’s hands to spend right away. But to help Americans struggling to survive a wobbling US economy, Congress over the last year has retooled how to reach that goal, adjusting how much money to send and who would qualify for the payment. With the new $1,400 payment, Congress continues to rejigger the payment requirements, which could result in a third check that looks very different to that first $1,200 payment or the second $600 check.

The new round of stimulus payments are part of the $1.9 trillion relief package that Democrats are rushing 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 raise to a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage rate that Democrats hoped to include in the bill looks to be off the table.

Since last March, we’ve studied how Congress designed the first two payments to help families and boost 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 stimulus check is different from the other two

With each round of stimulus checks, Congress has reworked the payment amount and eligibility guidelines. While we know most of the proposed details of the third stimulus check, 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. 

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 $87,000 $100,000
Head of household upper limit $150,000 $124,500 $146,000
Filing jointly upper limit $200,000 $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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