Yes, a second stimulus check is back on the table: 12 things to know today

16 Dec, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


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We’ll tell you what you need to know about the next stimulus check and you.


Sarah Tew/CNET

A second stimulus check is back in play for 2020, as bipartisan negotiators continue to work on a stimulus bill for 2020. The new economic relief package could be revealed as early as Wednesday. As a result of ongoing talks with top Republicans and Democrats representing the White House, Senate and House of Representatives, the package now reportedly includes a second stimulus check of a $600 or $700 maximum for eligible Americans

Whether or not this proposal becomes law, a number of questions will remain: which priority group would you be in to get your payment? Could you do anything to help get your next check faster? How much money would your dependents get? How do you claim your money if you’re still missing your first stimulus check

We answer these key second stimulus check facts and more, from what the latest proposal includes to your stimulus check rights. This story has been updated with new information.

Read more: Here’s how the IRS calculates your stimulus payment total

The new stimulus bill proposal may include another check after all

On Monday, senators from both major parties jointly introduced a two-part COVID-19 relief bill worth $748 billion and $160 billion, respectively. Initially, neither one contained funding for a second stimulus check. However, on Wednesday, Politico and The Washington Post reported that Congressional leaders were close to finalizing a package that includes stimulus checks of $600 or $700. 

To cover the cost of the checks, the current proposal would reduce the amount of aid going to cities and states, The Washington Post reported. The plan is expected to also include an additional federal unemployment benefit of $300 per week

Discussions are ongoing about the exact size of the payments, according to the Post, and we won’t know for sure until a final version of the proposal is released. Even then, the House and Senate will need to vote to approve the bill and President Donald Trump would need to sign it into law before checks would get sent out. 


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Even more aid could come in 2021

Whether or not the latest economic relief package passes — with or without a second stimulus check — it’s likely that we’ll see yet another relief effort underway in 2021, when President-elect Joe Biden takes office. 

“We all know the new administration is going to be asking for another package,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday. “We can live to fight another day on what we disagree on, but we all agree to go forward on what we can agree on. That’s the way forward.”

President-elect Joe Biden has said as much himself.

“This relief package won’t be the total answer even if it gets passed, but it’s an important first step. There’s so much we have to do,” Biden said on Dec. 11.

When Biden takes office, he won’t have the authority to pass new laws on the federal budget, like authorizing another stimulus check or larger unemployment checks. But in limited circumstances, the sitting president could use an executive order or memo to create temporary rules, like renewing extra unemployment benefits, halting evictions, suspending student loan payments with no interest and raising the minimum wage (we explain how this could work here). 

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The December COVID-19 relief package is seen as a stopgap for a larger stimulus bill in 2021.


Sarah Tew/CNET

How much your household could get if the new bill passes

If a $600 stimulus payment per eligible adult and qualifying child dependent is approved, it would put some money in peoples’ pockets, at a lesser amount than what Congress sent earlier this year. The first round of checks sent $1,200 to qualifying adults and $500 to children. 

By making adult earners and child dependents equal, families with more children would see a greater benefit than individual earners or married couples with no children. 

Here’s a quick look at how the latest proposal could hypothetically play out, compared to the first round of stimulus payments: 

Stimulus checks: $600 versus $1,200

$600 stimulus check $1,200 stimulus check
Individual taxpayer, no children $600 maximum $1,200 maximum
Individual taxpayer, 1 qualified child $1,200 maximum $1,700 maximum
Individual taxpayer, 3 qualified children $2,400 maximum $2,700 maximum
Married couple, no children $1,200 maximum $2,400 maximum
Married couple, 1 qualified child $1,800 maximum $2,900 maximum
Married couple, 3 qualified children $3,000 maximum $3,900 maximum

Your next check would 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. The same system would likely be used if a second check is approved. For example, people who have set up direct deposit with the IRS — an electronic transfer of funds into their bank account — are expected to get their payment weeks before those who receive a paper check or prepaid EIP card in the mail. Here’s a more detailed definition of the payment groups.

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When will you get a second stimulus check? In staggered groups.


Angela Lang/CNET

Why you could get less money in another check

If the eligibility requirements change with a second check along with the maximum amount, you and your family could find that your second stimulus check is smaller

With the first round of checks, Congress set income limits based on your adjusted gross income that set a line separating who did and didn’t qualify for a stimulus check. But that’s just the beginning. Your status as a dependent or adult, and your citizenship status are among the factors that also helped decide if you got all or some of the first check — and those things will likely also affect the second. 

Read more about stimulus payment qualifications here. Here’s how you can estimate how much you’d probably get if a future check were to remain at $1,200 apiece. And here’s how the IRS determines how much money you got with the first payment.

It took the IRS weeks to send the first check. Next time it may go faster

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. 

The hope is that the process could go smoother and therefore faster with a second check. The tracking tool is already up and running, the system is in place and it’s probable that the majority of people who qualified for a first check would also receive another. 

The timeline is constantly changing, but we’ve mapped out potential dates a check could be sent if approved before — or after — Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Here’s what you can do now to help speed up the delivery of your personal check.

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


Angela Lang/CNET

If you never got your first check, you might still be able to claim it

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.

This formula helped decide the size of your 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. Something similar for a second payment would determine whether you receive the full amount or a partial payment, even if the maximum amount per person ends up being $600. 

It also explains how you might still be able to get some stimulus money even if your family’s yearly income exceeds the limit set out by the CARES Act in March. The calculation starts with your household’s total adjusted gross income, adds on the money allotted to qualifying dependents and then deducts from the total based on your income bracket (as defined by the CARES Act). 

You don’t have to file your taxes to qualify

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.

Your 2020 stimulus payment doesn’t count as 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 rules and exceptions to know

If 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 stimulus money can be taken away in some cases

In most cases, your check is yours to spend or save how you want and it isn’t taxable. But there are a few situations where the federal government or a debt collector can take all or part of your check to cover a debt, such as if you owe child support.

For more information about stimulus payments, you can check in on what’s happening with stimulus negotiations right now, find out what Biden plans for a stimulus bill and see which federal benefits expire at the end of the year.



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