New stimulus check requirements? Two opposing qualifications on the table

October 15, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


It’s expected that millions more people will be included the second time around.

Angela Lang/CNET

Figuring out who qualifies for a stimulus check — and how much of the $1,200 maximum you might get — was never simple and the requirements have grown more convoluted as the negotiations on a new coronavirus rescue bill change day by day based on the bill at hand

At the base of this are two opposing newly viewpoints when it comes to the proposed qualifications — wait, what? Yes. The first stimulus check was deceptively straightforward with certain monetary caps that applied to people based on their taxes — really, their adjusted gross income — and the age of their dependents (unless their dependents fell into a different category). 

Confused? You’re not alone. Of every stimulus check detail — from the timeline for receiving a new stimulus check to how much money you’d get — the qualifications are the trickiest, stickiest part.

Read on for everything we know, including how the CNET stimulus check calculator can help you figure out the sum you’re likely to receive. This story is updated often.

Are stimulus check qualifications changing?

The current $1.8 trillion economic stimulus proposal from the Trump administration shouldn’t be too foreign for many who received the first stimulus check earlier this year — except in one big way. The White House plan for a second stimulus check could result in a bigger payment. The plan would revise one IRS eligibility requirement in a new way, but it wouldn’t benefit everyone the same amount.

Essentially, the shift would approve more money for child dependents than the first round of stimulus checks did, which could mean a larger payment for families overall. (Not much would change for people without dependents, but keep reading for additional qualifications that could pertain to you.)

President Donald Trump continues to urge negotiators on to a deal on a new economic relief package. “STIMULUS! Go big or go home!!!” Trump tweeted Tuesday morning. 

Whether the stimulus negotiations go in favor of this particular bill, a shift in stimulus allocation along these lines could very well appear in a final law, instead of a competing idea to assign a different amount of money to dependents of any age (not just “children“).

Stimulus check eligibility rules are a tangle of requirements and exceptions. They begin with the adjusted gross income from your taxes, but could differ from person to person based on whether you’re a dependent, an independent adult or an older adult or retiree. It could also be based on whether you’re on SSDI and if you are a US citizen living abroad or a citizen of a US territory.

Read on for everything we know, including how the CNET stimulus check calculator can help you figure out the sum you’re likely to receive. This story is updated often.

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Could you get $500 per dependent, $1,000 or nothing?

Two previous stimulus proposals would expand the definition of who counts as a dependent, adding $500 per person whom you claim as a dependent on your taxes, regardless of the person’s age. This notable change from the first stimulus check — which was limited to $500 per each child under 17 years old — would give some families more stimulus money in a second payment.

However, the White House’s Oct. 9 offer seeks to largely keep the definition of a dependent restricted to “children” (it’s not actually that simple), but raises the value to $1,000, which would still net many families more money.

Relatively few dependents were eligible for any money at all under the CARES Act, including college students and adult dependents who may live with the family. You can calculate your estimated total here.

How would you know if you qualify for a second stimulus payment?

It’s likely that if a second stimulus check is approved, it’ll follow many of the guidelines from the CARES Act that governed the first check in March. But it will also draw some changes from the revised Heroes Act and HEALS Act proposals, neither of which is law.

Who could qualify for a second stimulus check

Qualifying group Likely to be covered by the final bill
Individuals An AGI of less than $99,000 (Same as CARES)
Head of household An AGI of less than $146,500 (Same as CARES)
Couple filing jointly An AGI less than $198,000 (Same as CARES)
Dependents of any age As defined by your tax filing (HEALS proposal and revised Heroes Act)
US citizens living abroad Yes, same as CARES
Citizens of US territories Likely, with payments handled by each territory’s tax authority (CARES)
SSDI and tax nonfilers Likely, but with an extra step to file (more below)
Disqualified group Unlikely to be covered by the final bill
Noncitizens who pay taxes Proposed in Heroes Act, unlikely to pass in Senate
Incarcerated people Excluded under CARES Act
People who owe child support Included in Heroes proposal, but excluded under CARES

How would your taxes affect your stimulus check eligibility? 

For most people, taxes and stimulus checks are tightly connected. For example, the most important factor in setting income limits is adjusted gross income, or AGI, which determines how much of the $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples you could receive if you meet the other requirements.

Our stimulus check calculator can show you how much money you could potentially expect from a second check, based on your most recent tax filing. Read below for your eligibility if you don’t typically file taxes.

What if you didn’t a file federal tax return in 2018 or 2019?

People who weren’t required to file a federal income tax return in 2018 or 2019 may still be eligible to receive the first stimulus check under the CARES Act. If that guideline doesn’t change for a second stimulus check, this group would qualify again. Here are reasons you might not have been required to file:

  • You’re over 24, you’re not claimed as a dependent and your income is less than $12,200.
  • You’re married filing jointly and together your income is less than $24,400.
  • You have no income.
  • You receive federal benefits, such as Social Security or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). See below for more on SSDI.

With the first stimulus check, nonfilers needed to provide the IRS with some information before they could receive their payment. (If you still haven’t received a first check even though you were eligible, the IRS has extended its deadline to use its Non-Filers tool through Nov. 21.) The IRS is also reaching out to 9 million Americans who may fall into this category but who haven’t requested their payment.

You’re retired — can you get a second stimulus payment?

Many older adults, including retirees over age 65, received a first stimulus check under the CARES Act, and would likely be eligible for a second one. For older adults and retired people, factors like your tax filingsyour AGI, your pension, if you’re part of the SSDI program (also more below) and whether the IRS considers you a dependent would likely contribute to your chances of receiving a second payment. 

You receive SSDI. Will you still receive another stimulus check?

Those who are part of the Social Security Disability Insurance program also qualify for a check under the CARES Act. Recipients wouldn’t receive their payments via their Direct Express card, which the government typically uses to distribute federal benefits, but through a non-Direct Express bank account or as a paper check. SSDI recipients also need to use the IRS’ Non-Filers tool to request a payment for themselves and dependents.

What if you’re a US citizen living abroad, or live in a US territory?

You may still be eligible for a stimulus check, but the rules are different, as laid out with the first check. Here’s what you need to know.

Here are groups passed over in the first check

From the payment authorized under the CARES Act, which became law in March, these groups were excluded:

For more, here’s what we know about the major proposals for a second stimulus package. We also have information on unemployment insurance, what you can do if you’ve lost your job, if you could receive two refund checks from the IRS and what to know about evictions.

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