Yes, a second stimulus check is back on the table: 11 things you need to know today

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We’ll tell you what you need to know about the next stimulus check and you.


Sarah Tew/CNET

A second stimulus check has once again become part of the bipartisan negotiations for a new stimulus relief package in 2020. The latest version of the COVID-19 stimulus bill now reportedly includes a second stimulus check worth up to $600 for those who qualify, including their dependents

Although we’re learning more about this new $900 billion relief package, many questions about a second stimulus check remain. There are some we can begin to answer based on the first stimulus check, and others we will need to monitor as new information becomes available. For example: which payment priority group would you be in when the next payment comes, how much more or less money could you and your dependents receive and how can you claim missing money from your first stimulus check this upcoming tax season? 

From what the latest proposal includes to how you could get your next payment faster and your stimulus check rights, we zero in on the key facts you need to know right now. This story was recently updated with new information.

Read more: You want a third stimulus check? That might depend on the new Congress

The second stimulus check could change two things

If a second stimulus check is approved as part of the new $900 billion bill, it could change at least two things (that we know about so far). The first is the total amount you might get: $600 per qualifying adult and $1,200 for married couples filing jointly — yes, this is largely based on your tax status, but more on that down below.

Rumors have it that the same sliding scale that applied to the first stimulus check would carry through to the second, which means that single taxpayers with an AGI under $75,000 a year would be eligible for the full sum. 

What could change, however, which would have a large impact on the amount of money your second stimulus check could actually contain, is if the new direct payment also awarded $600 to each of your dependents, regardless of age, as The Washington Post reported. Here’s some payment math to demonstrate how that could work out for your household.


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A third stimulus check has a question mark over it

Whether or not the latest economic relief package passes — with or without a second stimulus check — it’s likely that we’ll see yet another relief effort underway in 2021, when President-elect Joe Biden takes office. 

“It looks like there’s going to be direct cash payments,” President-elect Joe Biden said of the $900 billion stimulus bill on Wednesday. “But it’s a down payment, an important down payment on what’s going to have to be done at the end of January and into February.

Whether or not that means there will be a third stimulus check in 2021 is unknown at this point, but may not be out of the realm of possibility. Much of the success of a third direct payment and another, larger stimulus bill may rest on what happens with the new Congress in January.

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The December COVID-19 relief package is seen as a stopgap for a larger stimulus bill in 2021.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Your next check would likely be delivered in order of payment group

Eligible Americans got the first stimulus money at different times, based on five de facto priority groups. The same system would likely be used if a second check is approved. For example, people who have set up direct deposit with the IRS — an electronic transfer of funds into their bank account — are expected to get their payment weeks before those who receive a paper check or prepaid EIP card in the mail. Here’s a more detailed definition of the payment groups.

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When will you get a second stimulus check? In staggered groups.


Angela Lang/CNET

Why you may not qualify for a second stimulus check

If the eligibility requirements change with another direct payment along with the maximum amount, or maybe your life circumstances have shifted in the past 9 months, you and your family could find that you may not be eligible for a second stimulus check.

Remember, with the first round of checks, Congress set income limits based on your adjusted gross income and a long list of fringe requirements besides. Read more about stimulus payment qualifications here. Here’s how you can estimate how much you’d probably get if a (third) future check were to remain at $1,200 apiece. And here’s how the IRS determined how much money you got with the first payment.

It took the IRS 19 days to send the first check. Now it could go faster

With the first check, the IRS was tasked to create an online registration and payment tracking tool, as well as a payment schedule for more than 160 million people. It took 19 days before the first wave of payments was delivered. 

The hope is that the process could go smoother and therefore faster with a second check. The tracking tool is already up and running, the system is in place and it’s probable that the majority of people who qualified for a first check would also receive another. 

The timeline is constantly changing, but we’ve mapped out potential dates a check could be sent if approved before — or after — Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Here’s what you can do now to help speed up the delivery of your personal check.

If money is missing from the first check, you can claim it

Guess what? The IRS might still owe you money from the first stimulus check payout. It may be that some money was left out for child dependents, or that an interpretation of a rule changed (this really happened). Or it could be that you fell through the cracks with your personal situation, that you didn’t think you qualified but you actually do and just need to take an extra step, or that some other error kept you from getting the total amount you were entitled to. Since the Nov. 21 deadline to file your claim has passed, you’ll now need to wait until tax season in 2021 to register for a payment from the IRS. Stay tuned for more information as we get closer.

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You still have a few weeks to claim a stimulus check this year.


Angela Lang/CNET

You don’t have to file your taxes to qualify for money

While taxes and stimulus checks are tied together, you don’t need to have filed a tax return to qualify for a check. If you’re over age 65, for example, and receive Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance, you could still qualify for a stimulus check under the CARES Act. You might need to take an extra step to request your payment (you had until Nov. 21 for the first batch) to get your check.

Your 2020 stimulus payment is not considered taxable income

The IRS doesn’t consider stimulus money to be income. That means a payment you get this year won’t reduce your refund in 2021 or increase the amount you owe when you file your 2020 tax return. You also won’t have to repay part of your stimulus check if you qualify for a lower amount in 2021. The IRS said if you didn’t receive everything you were owed this year, you can claim it as a credit on your 2020 federal income tax return by filing in 2021.

There are important cases and exceptions to know

If a second stimulus check is approved, there will be lots of small details, rules and exceptions that may be confusing. While some situations will be easy to understand, others concerning you and your dependents might make it unclear if you’re eligible and how much money you might receive because there are many fringe cases.

For example:

Certain issues could delay your check, such as if you recently moved.

Your stimulus money can’t be seized by a landlord, but…

In most cases, your check is yours to spend or save how you want and it isn’t taxable. But there are a few situations where the state or federal government or a debt collector can take all or part of your check to cover a debt, such as if you owe child support. Here’s what you need to know about who can and can’t garnish your stimulus check.

For more information about stimulus payments, you can check in on what’s happening with stimulus negotiations right now, find out what Biden plans for a stimulus bill and see which federal benefits expire at the end of the year.

This formula helped decide the size of your payment

Predicting what your payment could end up being isn’t straightforward. The IRS used a formula to determine how much stimulus money you got for the first check. Something similar for a second payment would determine whether you receive the full amount or a partial payment, even if the maximum amount per person ends up being $600. 

It also explains how you might still be able to get some stimulus money even if your family’s yearly income exceeds the limit set out by the CARES Act in March. The calculation starts with your household’s total adjusted gross income, adds on the money allotted to qualifying dependents and then deducts from the total based on your income bracket (as defined by the CARES Act). 



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