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Second stimulus check is really happening. Everything you should know today

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The second stimulus check is once again i. We’ll try to help you make sense of it all.


Sarah Tew/CNET

What’s happening with a second stimulus check now — will it ever arrive? The good news is that on Sunday night, President Donald Trump signed the bipartisan bill nearly a week after Congress approved it by a large majority. It authorizes a second stimulus check for up to $600 per person, but Trump has belittled the amount, pushing instead for a second stimulus check for $2,000. 

Democrats have typically supported a larger check. On Monday, the House of Representatives will to vote to raise the $600 per-person stimulus check ceiling to $2,000, though it’s uncertain if the increase would succeed in the Senate. 

Now that Trump changed his mind at the final moment and signed the current bill, how quickly could the IRS send the first wave of checks? What’s this about a Jan. 15 IRS cutoff? Can you calculate your stimulus check total now and will there be a third stimulus check? Which rules changed to make more people eligible to receive a second stimulus check — or disqualify them completely? Here are the answer we know right now. We update this story often with the latest information.

Congress is running out of options to pass a $2,000 second stimulus check, despite a Monday vote

The bill has already been approved by Congress and now signed by Trump, but standalone amendments are harder to pass through both chambers, especially with only days left in the term for the current (116th) Congress. 

On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will bring a bill for a $2,000 stimulus check to a vote in the Democratic-led House of Representatives, she said Thursday. It isn’t clear if the bill would be taken up by the Republican-led Senate, potentially teeing up an uncomfortable impasse between Trump’s desires and those of lawmakers in his party.

Trump has indicated he has line-item requests with the bill.

“President Trump has indicated that he will now send a rescissions package to Congress that aims to reverse funding his own administration requested and undo the careful bipartisan agreement he has just signed,” The House Appropriations Committee published in a statement Sunday. “The House Appropriations Committee has jurisdiction over rescissions, and our Democratic Majority will reject any rescissions submitted by President Trump.”

Here’s where the effort to raise the $600 second stimulus check amount to $2,000 stands.

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The $600 stimulus check limit would make fewer people eligible

The second stimulus check Trump approved Sunday as part of the new $900 billion bill clearly reduces the total amount you will get: half the first check. That’s up to $600 per qualifying adult and $1,200 for married couples filing jointly.

The figure is largely based on your tax status and on a sliding scale similar that gives you the full amount up to a certain income limit, and then a partial payment up to a set amount beyond that. After a certain amount, you wouldn’t be eligible for any amount. This is determined by a mathematical equation written into the bill, and follows the same formula as the first check. However, the fact that the $600 upper cut-off limit is half the first check actually lowers the income ceiling for getting a partial check, and for getting any check at all. We have a stimulus check calculator to estimate your household’s payment this second time around.

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. For example, 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 of the payments. A $2,000 stimulus check that uses the same formula would make more people eligible for a partial check.

There may be additional 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.

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


Angela Lang/CNET

Your kids could count for more money than the first check

The $900 billion set aside for economic stimulus changes the amount of money you’d get for child dependents, a flat rate of $600. This is different from the variable rate set for eligible adults. Compared to the first direct payment, this is an increase from $500 per child dependent 16 years or younger. There is no cap on the number of children 17 and under who would contribute the household’s total.

A third stimulus check in 2021 already has Biden’s attention

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.

The IRS could deliver the first payment wave within a week of approval

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 has been created and the system is in place, the first stimulus deliveries could go a week after a bill is approved, starting with direct deposit. On Dec. 21, 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.

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


Angela Lang/CNET

There’s a big catch: The IRS would face a Jan. 15 cutoff

Language in the stimulus package would prevent the IRS and US Treasury from sending the second stimulus check after Jan. 15, 2021. The longer it takes the bill to become law, the less time the government will have to send an enormous volume of stimulus money.

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 for tens of millions of people — or even possible. After all, the IRS can only process so many physical checks at once. The rate is 5 to 7 million a week, according to a GAO report from June.

People who don’t make the cutoff would have to claim the second check  alongside 2020 taxes

Those who receive a paper check or prepaid EIP card in the mail could begin to get their payments starting a week or more after a bill becomes law. 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. The later you file taxes, the longer it might take to get a second stimulus check. Here’s what you can do now to help speed up the delivery of your personal check.

The IRS schedule prioritizes this 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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The second stimulus check details grow more complex by the day.


Sarah Tew/CNET

You can claim missing money from the first stimulus check… in 2021

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.

People who don’t file taxes could still qualify for a second stimulus check

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 payment isn’t 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.

Eligibility includes a lot of rules and exceptions

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 won’t be seized for debt or rent

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.

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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