Sorry, not everyone will qualify for a second stimulus check, even if they got the first one


Will you get another stimulus check if one’s approved? Not everyone will.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Most of the rules governing a second stimulus check carry over from the first one, and some have even changed in a way that would allow more people to qualify for the up to $600 per person stimulus payment than before. So why is it that if the $900 stimulus bill, which is once again in jeopardy of failing, eventually passes as is, some people wouldn’t get one at all? And how could others automatically disqualify?

Turns out there’s one major eligibility caveat tied up with the the second stimulus check’s $600 cutoff that could make a difference for millions of people. And other factors that have nothing to do with the size of the next direct payment could also keep you from the receiving end. (And yes, a third stimulus check is a strong possibility, too.)

We’ll go over what we know about who might not be eligible at all for a second stimulus check. If you do end up being eligible, here’s which payment group you may fall into and the real reason you want to get your check through direct deposit if you can. This story has been updated with new information.

The second stimulus check’s $600 per person total could work against you

Some things changed with the second stimulus check that Congress approved on Dec. 21, including a $600 maximum per adult (down from $1,200 per person in the first stimulus package) with another $600 per child dependent (up from $500). One thing that did not change is the formula the IRS uses to calculate your stimulus check total

The result of some decently complex stimulus-check math is that more people will phase out of qualifying for a stimulus check payment, especially if they don’t have children 16 and under, the designated age for a qualified dependent.

So for example, if you’re a single tax filer, don’t have qualified child dependents and your adjusted gross income (AGI) on your 2019 tax return is between $75,000 and $95,000, you would have received a portion of the first ($1,200 max) stimulus check. But at a maximum of $600 per adult, you would phase out of the second payment once you hit $87,000. Read up more in our second stimulus check calculator and try it for yourself.

To determine your adjusted gross income, locate your 2019 tax statement. You’ll find your AGI on line 8b of the 2019 1040 federal tax form. If you didn’t file taxes in 2019, locate your 2018 tax document and navigate to line 7. 

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Second stimulus checks: Everything you need to know


Dependents between 17 and 24: Excluded once again

When the first round of stimulus checks was sent, millions of young Americans were excluded from receiving the payment — with these exceptions. Those who were between the ages of 17 and 24 and who were also claimed as child dependents didn’t get a check of their own due to the tax code definition of a child. So if you’re 17 or older, you’re not considered a child under the new plan (and the CARES Act), even if you still live at home.

Although some lawmakers have pushed to expand the definition of a stimulus check dependent regardless of their age, the $900 billion bill has kept the CARES Act definition, but increased the amount from $500 to $600 per qualified child. It isn’t clear if a successful $2,000 stimulus check for adults would also retain the $600 provision for child dependents.

Note that even if you’re not considered a child by stimulus check definitions, you also may not be deemed an adult who would receive their own stimulus check. Here’s how to determine if you count as an adult or a dependent for stimulus checks.


If you make more than the previous cutoff income, you likely won’t qualify for a second check.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Eligibility rules for people considered ‘nonresident aliens’

If you’re a “nonresident alien,” you would not be eligible for a second stimulus check. The government defines a nonresident alien as someone who “has not passed the green card test or the substantial presence test.” 

Note that you didn’t have to be a US citizen to receive the first stimulus payment. Noncitizens must have a Social Security number and live and work in the US to receive a stimulus check under the CARES Act. The $900 billion stimulus bill would make it possible for families with a noncitizen spouse to qualify for a second stimulus check, even if they themselves are issued a taxpayer identification number (ITIN) by the IRS and not a social security number.

The Democrats’ revised Heroes Act proposal from Oct. 1 wanted to extend stimulus checks to a group of people who aren’t US citizens and pay US taxes, with an IRS-provided ITIN.

‘Nonresident aliens’ with a US citizen spouse could now qualify for a second check

The $900 billion stimulus bill allows non-US citizens who have a US citizen spouse to receive a second stimulus check as part of their household, a change from the first payment rules.

With the first check, if you’re married to someone who is considered a nonresident alien, the two of you weren’t able to receive the first stimulus check for yourselves or money for your dependents if you file your taxes jointly — even if the qualifying parent and child are citizens of the US. 

In order to receive the first stimulus check, you would both need to have a Social Security number or be a member of the US Armed Forces during the tax year. If you filed your taxes separately, the citizen may be eligible for a full or partial stimulus payment. The same went for US citizens who claim their child dependents (as head of household) on a separate tax return from the noncitizen spouse. 

With the second check, the family could be eligible as long as they met the other requirements. 

People with overdue child support won’t be automatically disqualified this time

With the first stimulus check, if you owed child support payments by as much as $150, the government gave states the right to garnish the amount you needed to pay. For example, if you owed $2,000, your entire stimulus check would go to your child’s other parent. If you owed $400, that amount would be taken out of your stimulus check.

The rules surrounding the $600 stimulus check would let people in this group hold onto the cash without their check being garnished to pay overdue child support.

The current law wouldn’t prohibit incarcerated people from getting a stimulus check

Originally, people in jail and prison were deemed by the IRS to be eligible to receive a stimulus check, and then they were interpreted as ineligible. But a ruling by a federal judge in California allows inmates to file for the first stimulus payment online by Nov. 21, noting that the CARES Act didn’t explicitly ban this group. 

The IRS has appealed this decision but has sent paperwork to prisons for inmates. Right now, incarcerated people would be entitled to a second stimulus check.


Incarcerated people were originally denied a stimulus payment.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What if a family member died since my 2019 tax return?

The IRS “sent almost 1.1 million payments totaling nearly $1.4 billion to deceased individuals,” according to the US Government Accountability Office, before asking for the money back.

If someone has died since the previous tax filing, the IRS guidance with the first check is that families can’t keep the money on their behalf — for example, if the deceased filed taxes jointly with a spouse. An exception may be if you receive your spouse’s Social Security survivor benefits. 

With the second check, if your spouse died in 2020 and your AGI is less than $112,500 a year, you would be eligible for the full $600 amount. (A precedent for this exists. Families were able to keep the stimulus checks from the 2008 economic crisis in the event of a death, according to ProPublica and CNBC.)

If by accident a check is addressed to you and you wouldn’t otherwise qualify, the IRS may expect the family to return the payment, though they may not be legally required to do so. 

If you’re still confused about whether you’ll be eligible for the next stimulus payment, here’s who may qualify for a second stimulus check. Also, you may not get a stimulus check if you move and forget to file a change of address. Plus, here’s when the IRS could send the second check, if approved.

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