Second stimulus check qualifications: What to know about eligibility now

October 7, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


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

Angela Lang/CNET

It looks like stimulus checks are back to the drawing board, including details on who would qualify for a second payment. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump put a halt to talks on another stimulus bill till after the election. Trump, who spent the weekend hospitalized with COVID-19, is currently being treated from the White House. Late Tuesday evening on Twitter, his account dangled the prospect of a standalone stimulus check for $1,200.

“I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Business,” Trump’s Twitter account announced midday.

The announcement followed months of start-and-stop talks to work out an agreement on a second stimulus check. Up to this point, there have been strong clues that a new qualification will make more people eligible for stimulus money. 

While we watch to see what happens, we wanted to continue to provide a primer on stimulus eligibility, including different requirements for different groups of people. Our stimulus check calculator can give you an estimate for what could be due to you, if another check is approved with the new qualification.

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


How you could get $500 more for your dependents

There’s strong evidence that a new package could expand the definition of who counts as a dependent, which would give some families more stimulus money in a second stimulus check. (Here’s how the IRS defines an adult who is not a dependent.)

Specifically, dependents of any age would count toward $500 apiece in the family’s final check. This provision is in the revised Heroes proposal that the House of Representatives passed Oct. 1. And it’s also in the Republican HEALS Act introduced over the summer. Neither act is law, but the agreement on this new term could benefit tens of millions of families.

Relatively few dependents were eligible for any money at all under the CARES Act. Dependents aged 16 and younger were allotted $500 as part of the family payment, but new proposals from both Democrats and Republicans want to expand the definition of a dependent to include people regardless of age — that means college students and adult dependents.

You can calculate your estimated total here.

Will you qualify for a second stimulus check? What we know so far

It’s likely that if a second stimulus check emerges, it’ll follow many of the guidelines from the CARES Act that governed the first check, but 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

Would retired people get another 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 payment if a bill is approved. 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 or not you count as a dependent to the IRS would likely all contribute to your chances of receiving a second payment. 

How do 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 to do if you didn’t file taxes in 2018 or 2019

People who weren’t required to file a federal income tax return in either 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, 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 checks (if you still haven’t received a first check even though you were eligible, the IRS extended its deadline to use its nonfilers tool through Nov. 21). The IRS is also reaching out to 9 million Americans who may fall in this category but who have not requested their payment.

Would SSDI recipients receive a second 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 through their Direct Express card, which the government usually uses to distribute federal benefits, but through a non-Direct Express bank account or through a paper check. SSDI recipients also need to use the IRS’ Non-Filers tool to request a payment for themselves and dependents.

All the groups that were not included in the first round of stimulus checks

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

  • Single taxpayers with an AGI over $99,000.
  • Heads of households with an AGI over $136,500.
  • Married couples with an AGI over $198,000.
  • Children over 16 and college students under age 24.
  • Nonresident aliens, as defined by the US government.
  • People who are incarcerated.
  • People who died since the previous tax filing. (Their families may not collect on their behalf and are expected to return the payment.)

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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