New stimulus check: Status update, biggest unknowns, what could cause a delay

February 26, 2021 0 By boss



Is a third stimulus check in the bag? Here’s the latest news.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Many of the third stimulus check details that are up in the air could become clearer on Friday. That’s when the House of Representatives intends to sign off on all the specifics for the next payment, including how much money you’d receive and which of your dependents will qualify. The House vote would mark a significant step on the path to approval of the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which would include $1,400 payments.

After the House vote, the rescue package will move to the Senate and finally on to President Joe Biden to sign by the middle of March, if Congressional Democrats can keep to their schedule. But a lot can happen between Friday’s vote and when Biden finally signs the bill approving the next round of checks that could delay when you’d receive your payment and potentially change whether you qualify for a payment.

We will tell you where the third stimulus check stands, ahead of the House vote, including possible roadblocks, what new income limits could be and how a change to the stimulus check formula could affect your dollar amount. For more on stimulus checks, here’s how to claim any money and if you need to file for an IRS payment trace. Here’s how the three checks are different and how the next bill could mean more than just another $1,400 check for your family. This story was recently updated. 

How soon will the new stimulus check be approved?

Congressional Democrats are rushing to pass the sweeping COVID-19 relief package on or before March 14, when current federal unemployment benefits expire. The new bill would renew the unemployment payments, sending $400 weekly federal checks to unemployed Americans through August.

After the House vote on Friday, the bill will move to the Senate for approval before finally going to Biden to sign by that mid-March deadline, if everything goes to plan.

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Stimulus check No. 3: What you need to know


What could delay your third check?

In just over two weeks, Congress will need to tie up all the loose ends on the bill — including whether you and your dependents will be eligible for a new payment and where to set income limits to target the payment — if Democratic leaders want to hit their mid-March deadline.

Lots could happen between now and the middle of March that could delay the bill’s passage — and your getting your check. The Senate could decide, for example, to change a piece of the legislation and send the bill back to the House for another vote, adding time to the schedule. Or the Senate could spend days debating whether to raise the national minimum wage hourly rate, which could require another vote in the House.

Outside of Congress, the IRS has a full plate, now that it is in the middle of tax season. Already stretched thin because of the ongoing pandemic, the IRS will need to process 2020 tax forms and send out payments in the same time period, which could cause a delay in making payments. See below for more on the IRS and your payments.

Where does the third stimulus check stand now?

With the current bill in the House, the third stimulus check comes with a $1,400-per-person maximum. To “target” or restrict the third check to lower- and middle-income households, the legislation will include eligibility rules that exclude individuals and families at the highest income levels. An individual with an AGI (adjusted gross income) of at least $100,000 a year would hit the payment cutoff, as would a head of household earning $150,000 and a couple filing jointly with an AGI of $200,000.

However, any dependent a taxpayer claims could qualify for a $1,400 payment, but unlike with the first two payments, people above the hard upper limit wouldn’t be able to get a partial check by having dependents. Here’s how the stimulus check formula worked. If you want to see for yourself, try our stimulus calculator for the third check to see how it could affect your situation.

Stimulus check proposal for income limits

Full $1,400 per person maximum (based on AGI) Not eligible (based on AGI)
Single taxpayer Less than $75,000 $100,000 or more
Head of household Less than $112,500 $150,000 or more
Married couple filing jointly Less than $150,000 $200,000 or more

Will the third stimulus check total be based on your 2019 or 2020 taxes?

Tax season and the timing of a third stimulus check will most likely overlap. What that means for you is that the IRS will likely base your total on income from either your 2020 or 2019 tax return, whichever it has on hand when it determines the size of your payment.  If you qualify for the full $1,400 based on your 2020 taxes, but your check was lower because the IRS based it on your 2019 taxes, you’d have to claim the difference when you file in 2022. 

Here’s how your check could be affected if you file for a tax extension, and what would happen if the IRS pushed the tax deadline past April 15.

When’s the soonest Congress could pass a third stimulus check? 

The COVID-19 stimulus bill is expected to clear the House of Representatives on Friday and then go on to Senate before going to Biden for approval by March 14. If the Democrats’ plan to use a powerful legislative tool works, a third stimulus check could conceivably arrive later in March for the first wave of recipients. But whenever the bill does pass (assuming that happens), it doesn’t mean everyone would get their funds immediately. 

There are many variables that could affect you personally. For example, the 2020 tax season could have a dramatic effect on how and when you get your next payment ( see above) — we’ll just have to see how it all pans out. Meanwhile, we’ve mapped out some dates the IRS and Treasury could start sending the next stimulus check, depending on who you are.

When could the IRS actually send out a third round of checks? Would it have a deadline like last time? 

The IRS and the Department of the Treasury took just days to deliver the second stimulus checks, starting shortly after former President Donald Trump signing December’s stimulus bill. They had no choice: The language of the bill provided only a 17-day window to send the checks. There were millions of direct deposit errors, and now anyone missing stimulus money will have to claim it as part of filing 2020 taxes. (Yes, even people who don’t otherwise file taxes.)

It appears that the IRS would automatically send a third check to recipients as it has done with the second stimulus payments, with taxpayers and nonfilers alike claiming any missing money as a Recovery Rebate Credit or something like it, for the 2021 tax season in 2022. We walk through more possible scenarios for the third stimulus check timeline here.


Some families could get more than before. Others would see less.

Angela Lang/CNET

What can I do to get my third stimulus check faster this time?

Your stimulus check and taxes are tightly intertwined. There are some important things to know about how your taxes can affect whether you’d qualify for a third stimulus check, depending on both the eligibility rules and your 2020 adjusted gross income. But taxes are now also tied to any missing stimulus money you might have to claim or trace. While Congress has asked the IRS to postpone this year’s tax-filing deadline, it still could be in your best interest to file sooner instead of later.

If you file your taxes sooner, you can get a refund (plus missing stimulus money) faster than if you, for example, file a tax extension. We also recommend setting up direct deposit with the IRS to get a catch-up payment faster — and potentially get a new stimulus check faster, too. And if you moved recently, better let the IRS and USPS know.

What else could still change with this third stimulus payment?

Besides possibly setting a hard income cap to qualify, the proposal embraces two changes that have been popular among Democratic lawmakers. The first would expand stimulus check qualifications to dependents of any age, including 13.5 million more people, according to the People’s Policy Project. That includes college students, older adult relatives and dependents of all ages with disabilities (not just those under 17 years old). 

The second change to eligibility would include all “mixed-status households” with one or more family members who aren’t US citizens. An example would be parents who aren’t US citizens, but their US-born children are. The second stimulus checks made families with one US-citizen spouse eligible. However, it doesn’t appear that people who are undocumented workers would qualify for a stimulus check in the third round.

Read moreStimulus money and tax breaks for kids and older adults: Not just a $1,400 check


Stimulus check money could add up fast — as long as you’re qualified to receive it.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Why some people might get a smaller portion of stimulus money with the third set of checks

A targeted income limit that cuts off all households above a certain threshold is one way a household could get less stimulus check money than the total, but there are others, too. We explore that here, including ways that changes in your personal life could have an effect, like if you got a raise in the past year or if you claim fewer dependents this time around. Here’s who may not qualify for a new stimulus check.

Why others could expect a larger amount in the third round, even if it’s a targeted check

A larger maximum total per person is an obvious way your household would see more money from a third check over the second, but there’s more to it than that. Since the upper limit for the second check was $600 per adult with an extra $600 per child dependent (according to the IRS’ formula), more people hit the upper income limit for receiving a second payment. And that means they didn’t actually qualify to get any stimulus money at all.

A third stimulus check could make more groups of people eligible to receive money (namely noncitizens who pay taxes), and bring a larger total check to qualified individuals and their families, including possible $1,400 payments to dependents. A change to your circumstances might also mean you qualify for more money this time. Here are other ways a third stimulus check could put more money in your pocket.

For more information about stimulus checks, here’s other funding that could be in the next stimulus package, how to estimate your third stimulus check and everything your stimulus check has to do with taxes (and the other way around).


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