Third stimulus check details: Timeline, payment size, new qualifications taking shape?

America’s third stimulus check would change even more rules this time, from the maximum payment to who qualifies.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Over 50% of Americans in a recent survey by Bankrate have said the $600 second stimulus checks aren’t enough to last a full month (Bankrate and CNET share a parent company). President Joe Biden agrees — his $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal includes a $1,400 third stimulus check, which would deliver a combined $2,000 maximum per person when you add the second and third checks together.

But more importantly for many, Biden’s proposal would also expand certain qualifications in the third stimulus check, which would make millions of families either eligible for the first time, or able to receive more money for dependents who were left out of the previous two rounds.

Biden’s vision is a start toward the final third payment details, but it’s enough to start working out how much money households can expect, when the third check could come and — importantly — how those stimulus funds would be delivered. Tax season adds an extra wrinkle since the IRS orchestrates both stimulus check allotments and tax refunds and returns. Here’s what we know so far about a third stimulus check, including how you can set yourself up during tax season to potentially get the new funds faster.

Third stimulus checks: A package as soon as Feb. 1?

The House of Representatives won’t be in session again until Feb. 1, but they intend to bring a bill to the floor the week after next.

“We will be doing our committee work all next week so that we are completely ready to go to the floor when we come back,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday in a press conference.

It isn’t clear if this will be a sweeping stimulus package as suggested by Biden, or a smaller, piecemeal bill that focuses on a third stimulus check and COVID-19 vaccine distribution, as reported by Punchbowl News, a new outlet made of former Politico journalists, who report on Capitol Hill activities.

Will the checks be for $1,400 or $2,000? Or will it depend who you are?

Biden’s stimulus plan calls for the next check to max out at $1,400 per eligible adult — not the $2,000 originally expected. The idea would be to “raise” the $600 maximum set out in the second stimulus check to $2,000, once you combine the per-person payment totals.

Biden said during a Jan. 14 press conference that “we will finish the job of getting $2,000 in cash relief to people who need it most.”

Third stimulus check details: Timeline, payment size, new qualifications taking shape?

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“Even for people who have kept their jobs, getting this check is really important,” Biden added, noting that workers who worry about job security or getting sick would gain peace of mind, and could also immediately spend the money on food and rent. “$2,000 is going to go a long way to ease that pain.”

We can’t say for certain why Biden chose $1,400 as the maximum instead of $2,000, but there has been opposition to a $2,000 stimulus payment (more below). Combined with the $600 second check that went out, a full $2,000 maximum would bring a combined total of up to $2,600 per person, without figuring in dependents. If Biden is trying to keep the proposal below $2 trillion, a larger stimulus check could push his $1.9 trillion stimulus bill proposal over the threshold.

There’s some wondering aloud if, were qualifications to extend to new groups of people who were passed out in the first round, the new recipients could get the entire $2,000 sum.

How quickly could the IRS send the checks, and would there be another deadline?

The IRS and Department of the Treasury set a blistering pace to deliver the second stimulus checks, starting within days of Trump signing December’s stimulus bill. But they had to. The language of the bill provided only a 17-day window to send the checks before the imposed deadline. There were millions of direct deposit errors, and now anyone missing stimulus money will have to claim it as part of filing 2020 taxes. (Yes, even tax nonfilers, too.)

It’s too soon to say if the IRS would automatically send a third check to recipients as they had been doing with the second stimulus checks, or if the money would be wrapped up into a Recovery Rebate Credit. or something like it. We walk through more possible scenarios for the third stimulus check timeline here.

How could stimulus check qualifications change again?

Biden proposes two changes that have been popular among Democratic lawmakers. The first would expand qualifications to dependents of any age, including more than 10 million adults dependents, like college students, older adult relatives and children of all ages with disabilities. This would cover 13.5 million more people, according to the People’s Policy Project.

The second change to eligibility would include “all mixed status households (PDF)” under Biden’s proposal. A mixed status household refers to households with one or more people who are not US citizens, for example, if the parents are not US citizens, but their children, who were born in the US, are. The second stimulus checks expanded eligibility to families with one citizen spouse.

How could the third stimulus check affect the economy?

The idea of any stimulus check is for people to use it, either by paying for basic needs like rent and food or for putting it back into the economy in other ways, like through purchasing goods and services. Some have suggested that people who save their stimulus payments aren’t using the checks as intended, but the money is given free and clear, with very few exceptions on how it’s kept or used.

Stimulus bills are clearly expensive and create national debt. If Biden’s proposal passes unchanged, it would cost $1.9 trillion.

“Neither the president-elect, nor I, propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden,” Janet Yellen, Biden’s pick for treasury secretary, said Jan. 18, CNN and others reported. “But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big.”


How much money could a third stimulus check really bring your household? We’ll soon see.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What are the biggest obstacles facing a third stimulus check?

There’s already pushback from Democrats in more ways than one. With the Senate evenly split, opposition from just one Democratic senator could sink the party’s hopes for a large third stimulus check.

“$2,000 means $2,000. $2,000 does not mean $1,400,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said Jan. 14 to The Washington Post, referring to Biden’s earlier and repeated commitment to a $2,000 stimulus check.

On the other end of the spectrum, Sen. Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat from West Virginia, expressed concern multiple times about the cost of a third stimulus check and suggested the financial aid could be better focused on those most in need of the money.

“How is the money that we invest now going to help us best to get jobs back and get people employed? And I can’t tell you that sending another check out is gonna do that to a person that’s already got a check,” Manchin said Jan. 8, later reportedly indicating he was “open” to hearing Biden’s case for a larger stimulus check, but prioritizes vaccine distribution

Many Republicans are expected to object to a new, high-priced stimulus package, especially one with that could more than double the size of the $600 stimulus check. With a soon-to-be Democrat-led Senate, Schumer is counting on pushing the legislation through, especially with Vice President Kamala Harris set to act as a tiebreaker.

There are several ways a $1,400 check could bring families more money

A larger maximum total per person is the obvious way your household would see more money from a third check than from the second, but there’s more to it than that. Since the upper limit for the second check is $600 per adult, with an extra $600 per child dependent, the way the IRS’ formula works out, more people hit the upper income limit for receiving a second payment, which means they won’t actually qualify to get any stimulus money at all.

A third stimulus check could:

Here are other ways a third stimulus check could put more money in your pocket.

For more information, here’s other funding that could be in the next stimulus package, how to calculate your second stimulus check payment and who may not qualify for a stimulus check.

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