What is going on with the second stimulus check? 14 essential facts 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

The good news: Congress agreed on Monday to a second stimulus check for $600 as part of a sweeping economic-relief and government-funding bill. The not-good news: President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the $600 payments were a “disgrace” and asked Congress to send him a new bill with $2,000 payments.

So what happens now? If Trump does sign the bill, how soon could you get it and what’s this about a Jan. 15 IRS cutoff? How much money could you really get, $2,000 or $600, and can you estimate the total now? Which rules have changed in the $900 stimulus bill that could make new people eligible to receive a second stimulus check — or disqualify them completely?

We can help answer your questions about a second stimulus check and more, including which payment priority group you’d be in and what we know today about a third stimulus check (yes, you read that right). We also walk you through your stimulus check rights and other key facts you need to know right now. This story recently updated with new information.

The new $900B stimulus bill with a $600 check is ready for Trump to sign but…

Late Monday, the House and Senate overwhelming passed a combination economic-rescue package and federal-spending bill, with a $600 second stimulus check. The nearly 5,600-page piece of legislation is being prepared for to Trump to sign, or not sign.

…Trump wants Congress to bump the direct payment amount to $2,000 per person

A day after Congress approved the bill, on Tuesday, Trump asked the House and Senate to amend the bill with its “ridiculously low” $600 check and approve instead payments up to $2,000 per individual.

White House and Congressional leaders have thrown out a handful of dollar amounts for the second check over the last month. The administration has been pushing for a $600 payment for weeks, and some in the Senate recommended the bill include no check at all.

A proposal for a $1,200 check failed to gain traction last week, when Sens. Josh Hawley, a Republican, and Bernie Sanders, an independent, couldn’t bring a standalone bill (PDF) for a $1,200 stimulus check to a vote.

The $600 second stimulus check shifts key qualifications

The second stimulus check Congress approved on Monday as part of the new $900 billion bill changes several things from the first check. To start, obviously, is the total amount you will get: Up to $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 below.

Second, the amount of the payment is based on a sliding scale similar to what Congress used with the first stimulus check. The upper cut-off limit where you would not receive a is lower, however, so a single taxpayer would still get the full $600 with an AGI under $75,000, but they would not receive anything above $87,000, down from the $99,000 cap for the first check. See our guide for a breakout on the qualifications. A $2,000 stimulus check that uses the same formula would make more people eligible for a partial check.

Third, the new bill changes the amount of money you’d get for child dependents: $600 up from $500 per child dependent 16 years or younger. We have a stimulus check calculator to estimate your household’s payment this second time around.


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Fewer people could qualify for a second stimulus check

A side effect of the $600 upper limit actually changes qualifications by shifting the upper income limit that a person can hit in order to qualify for a check. In other words, fewer people would be eligible to receive any amount from a $600-maximum stimulus check than they would a $2,000-maximum payment.

Also, there may be changes to your life circumstances in the past nine months that could mean you and your family 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. And here’s how the IRS determined how much money you got for the first payment.

A third stimulus check in 2021 is already in the cards

No matter what happens with this current bill, Congress is expected to take up another relief effort in 2021, after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in

“This bill is just the first step, a down payment,” Biden said on Tuesday of the $900 billion stimulus bill, promising to push for more aid in 2021. Biden also committed to a third stimulus check in 2021, but whether it happens or for how much depends on the appetite of a new Congress to continue to support the economy.

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When will you get a second stimulus check? The first check was sent out in staggered groups.


Angela Lang/CNET

The second check could arrive next week

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. 

Now that the tracking tool is up and running and the system is in place, the first stimulus deliveries could go a week after a bill is approved, starting with direct deposit. On Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin confirmed that those with banking information on file with the IRS will get their checks quicker. 

“The good news is [direct deposit] is a very, very fast way of getting money into the economy” Mnuchin said. “Let me emphasize: People are going to see this money at the beginning of next week.” This promise won’t hold true if Trump doesn’t sign the bill.

If stimulus checks don’t arrive by Jan. 15, you’d have to claim them a different way

Although Mnuchin promised delivery of stimulus checks within three weeks of sending them, assuming the $900 billion stimulus bill became law, that may not be realistic — or even possible — for tens of millions of people. After all, the IRS can only process so many physical checks at once. (The rate is actually 5 to 7 million a week, according to a GAO report from June.)

Those who receive a paper check or prepaid EIP card in the mail could begin to get their payments in the following few weeks. However, the new stimulus bills sets a hard cutoff date of Jan. 15, 2021 for the IRS to send out checks. Anyone who doesn’t get a check by that cut-off would need to claim their second stimulus check along with their 2020 tax filing.

Here’s what you can do now to help speed up the delivery of your personal check.

Your next check will 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. Once the bill containing a second check is signed into law, the IRS will use a similar approach. For example, people who have set up direct deposit with the IRS — an electronic transfer of funds into their bank account — will get their payment first, followed by the rest. Some people may experience a bigger holdup. Here’s a more detailed explanation of the payment groups.

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


Angela Lang/CNET

You can still claim missing money from your first stimulus check

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.

You don’t have to file your taxes to qualify for a payment

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. We’ve asked the IRS for details.

Your 2020 stimulus check 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 rule exceptions to know

Now that 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 second stimulus money can’t be taken by a landlord and to cover debts

In most cases, your check is yours to spend or save how you want and it isn’t taxable. But there were a few situations where the state or federal government or a debt collector can take all or part of your first check to cover a debt, such as if you owe child support. However, with the second check, the money can’t be used to pay past-due federal or state debts, and the payments are protected from bank garnishment and from private creditors or debt collectors.

This IRS formula helped decide the size of your first 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 and is doing something similar for the second checks. Try our second stimulus check calculator to get an idea of the size of your payment. 

The calculation starts with your household’s total adjusted gross income, adds on the money allotted to qualifying child dependents and then deducts from the total based on your income bracket. 



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