Could there be a third stimulus check in 2021 if a second payment passes this week?


We share what we know so far about a second stimulus check for 2021.

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For months, the nation has fixated on when a second stimulus check will bring more economic relief to families, and to a US economy that has been hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic. A  $900 billion bipartisan COVID-19 rescue package appears to be days away from coming to a vote in Congress. But as it’s for less than half the overall funding commitment from the CARES Act in March, top US leaders have vowed to bring another broad-strokes stimulus bill to the forefront in early 2021. Would that include a third stimulus check?

“It’s a down payment,” President-elect Joe Biden said on Dec. 16 of the current stimulus bill. “An important down payment, on what’s going to have to be done at the end of January and into February.”

If Congress authorizes a $600 stimulus check in 2020 and a new, larger economic relief package follows in the early days of the Biden White House, is there a chance Americans could see a third stimulus check in 2021?

The question of additional monetary relief to individuals comes at a time when over 8 million people have fallen to the poverty line since the summer, according to the Washington Post; when daily positive COVID-19 cases are overwhelming hospitals across the nation; and as the death toll rises. The vaccine for COVID-19 is currently being administered to top US leaders and health care workers around the country, but officials say it will be many months before the majority of the population gets immunized.

Below, we detail what we currently know about stimulus checks in 2021. This story is frequently updated with new information.

Read more: Want a third stimulus check? Here’s why the next Congress could hold the key

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


A $600 stimulus check could pass in 2020, but arrive in 2021

If another direct payment happens in 2020 as part of the COVID-19 bill, there’s a good chance the IRS and US Treasury could send this second stimulus check to you faster this time. But there’s also the very real possibility that many people won’t receive their payment until 2021.

It all depends on exactly when the bill is approved, how quickly the IRS could act and a range of other factors that could make you first in line to receive another check — or put you closer to the back of the line.

Is a third stimulus check in 2021 also possible?

In theory yes, it’s possible to see another stimulus check in 2021. The ins and outs start getting complicated, but there are three essential things to think about.

First, there’s a tremendous support from both Republicans and Democrats for a second $1,200 stimulus check. The holdup has mostly been centered around resistance to certain elements within the overarching bill and the amount of spending overall, not necessarily the size of a stimulus check. The $600 reported sum is a compromise to get the bill passed in a short time.


Another stimulus check isn’t out of the running yet.

James Martin/CNET

Next, there’s precedent. In addition to current support, the fact that Democrats and Republicans agreed on a $1,200 sum earlier in 2020 makes it more likely to see them want to at least match that. A $600 check now would get the US halfway there.

Finally, a new government will be sworn in. A complicated and divisive runoff for two Senate seats in Georgia on Jan. 5 will decide if Republicans maintain control of the upper chamber or if Democrats will narrowly take control, through a 50-50 number of seats, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote. The party in control also controls several key subcommittees, with the power to influences laws. A third stimulus check may have a greater chance of passing depending on the makeup of the next Congress.

How much money could you see in a third stimulus check — $600, $1,200 or something else?

It’s too soon to say if a third stimulus check would make up the difference and match any $600 per person payment in 2021, or if lawmakers would advance a completely new $1,200 payment to follow in the footsteps of the first stimulus check approved in March as part of the CARES Act.

Much will depend on who wins control of the Senate (see above) and what the new Biden administration sees as its goals in rehabilitating an economy weakened by the coronavirus pandemic. For now, we’re waiting to see what happens with the second stimulus check, while keeping an eye to early 2021.

For more information on stimulus checks, here’s how you might get more money in your next checkor a smaller payment next time around. Here’s who may not qualify. And this is a primer on the five different priority groups and when you might realistically be able to get another check if and when it’s passed, based on key dates.

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