Stimulus check details right now: New payment size, timeline, who’s eligible

February 23, 2021 0 By boss

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A third stimulus check is coming into focus. Here’s the latest news.


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By the end of this week, the details of the third stimulus check should be smoothed out, giving us a better idea of how much money you could receive this time. Currently, the House of Representatives is working on finalizing the payment details as part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, with a goal of having Biden sign the final legislation before the middle of March. Along with establishing how soon the third stimulus check could arrive and who would qualify, the bill could include a minimum wage increase to $15 per hour and $400 weekly federal checks for unemployed Americans.

During discussions, Congress will need to tie up any loose ends of the proposal, including whether you and your dependents could qualify for a new payment (or be disqualified entirely). They also need to clarify what happens if the IRS has to send out payments in the middle of tax season, and how you could get more money (or less) as a result of new income limits that “target” the payment and change the stimulus check formula.

We’ll tell you everything you need to know, such as how to claim any money you’re missing from the first or second stimulus check, including missing money for your dependents, and whether you need to file for an IRS payment trace. (And here’s the 411 on an extra $600 stimulus check for Californians.) This story was recently updated. 

What’s the current status of the third check?

The new stimulus bill and its third check are close. By Sunday, Feb. 28, the House plans to pass its version of the bill and then send the legislation to the Senate, which could send it on to Biden to sign by March 14. “We will meet this deadline,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told Senate Democrats on Feb. 19.

The current bill, which the House will continue to fine-tune this week, includes a third stimulus check, 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 payment 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, the IRS will likely base your total on income from either your 2020 or 2019 tax returns, 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.


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Stimulus check No. 3: What you need to know



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How soon could Congress pass a third stimulus check? 

The plan is to have the COVID-19 stimulus bill clear the House of Representatives by the end of this month 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 another deadline? 

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 in 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.

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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?

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 a 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.

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


Sarah Tew/CNET

Why some people could get a smaller amount 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 more money 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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