$1,400 stimulus check, but with a catch? What to know about payment No. 3

America’s third stimulus check could shake up the rules even more.

Sarah Tew/CNET

President Joe Biden is doubling down on a $1,400 stimulus check for Round 3 as part of a sweeping COVID-19 relief package. On Wednesday, he reportedly recommitted to delivering a stimulus check with a $1,400 maximum for qualified adults, according to The Hill. However, the next payment could come with a catch. Specifically, a “targeted” stimulus check that could change some parts of the stimulus check formula and restrict the number of people who would ultimately get more money.

We’ll walk you through what it all means so far, from the $1,400 upper limit to ways that qualifications could change to let in more groups. We’ll also reveal a powerful but rarely used tool that Senate leaders may attempt to use to push a bill to approval faster, as well as what happens if a payment were to arrive in the middle of tax season. For example, would it affect your tax refunds and returns? 

Here’s everything we know so far about a third stimulus check, including how you can set yourself up to potentially get the new funds faster. This was recently updated.

What exactly is a ‘targeted’ stimulus check and why do some lawmakers want it instead?

The simple explanation is that some people are concerned that a stimulus check for $1,400 will go out to a proportion of people at relatively high income levels. For example, using our stimulus calculator for the third check, a person could make $102,900 per year (their adjusted gross income) and still get a partial payment… of $5. 

The point is that if lawmakers want people who make below $75,000 per year to get $1,400, there are going to have to be adjustments to how things are done. One way would be to change the stimulus check formula that was used in the first two checks. Another would be to present an arbitrary cutoff (e.g., a check would only go out to people who make under a certain amount per year, as per their AGI). A third could be to lower the maximum amount of the next stimulus payment (because, math). Our stimulus check article explains more.


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Stimulus check No. 3: What you need to know


Is there a way to get a third check faster?

Possibly. Your stimulus check and taxes are tightly intertwined. There are some important things to know about how your taxes can affect whether you’d qualify or not, depending on eligibility rules and your adjusted gross income for 2020. But now, taxes are also tied to any missing stimulus money you might have to claim or trace. If you file your taxes sooner, you can get a refund (plus missing stimulus money) faster than if you, for example, filed a tax extension. We also recommend setting up direct deposit with the IRS to get a catch-up payment faster — and potentially a new stimulus check.

Is the $1,000 check in the $600 billion GOP stimulus plan still in play?

Over the last several days, Biden and his administration have made it clear that it will not seek to alter his $1.9 trillion stimulus plan to fit a $600 billion counterproposal pitched by a group of 10 moderate Republican senators. Biden wants to keep both the ballpark price tag on the bill as well as the $1,400 per person maximum, saying the Republican offer was “not even in the cards,” Politico and other outlets reported.

“We can’t walk away from an additional $1,400 in direct checks that we proposed because the people need them,” Biden told congressional Democrats during a Wednesday phone call, according to a source speaking to The Hill. “We can better target them.”

On Wednesday night, Biden thanked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a tweet for her “continued leadership” after she led the House in voting to clear the path to pass Biden’s stimulus package without Republican support.


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

We have a better idea of the new stimulus check timeline

With a smaller, piecemeal bill that focuses on a third stimulus check and COVID-19 vaccine distribution off the table, Democrats are now looking for a March 14 passage of the next stimulus bill. But even if Congress could hit that precise date, that doesn’t mean you’d get your funds immediately. 

There are a lot of variables we can guess based that could affect you personally, based on the first check, and others we won’t know the answer to until we can pore over the text of a final stimulus bill. For example, tax season 2020 could have a dramatic effect on how and when you get your next payment — we’ll just have to see how it all pans out. 

In the meantime, we mapped out some dates a third stimulus check could potentially arrive, depending on who you are.

How long would the IRS have to send new checks. 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 former President Donald Trump signing December’s stimulus bill. They had no choice. 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 have done 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.


Some families could get more than before. Others would see less.

Angela Lang/CNET

Could stimulus check eligibility requirements change with the third payment?

Biden proposes two changes that have been popular among Democratic lawmakers. The first would expand qualifications to dependents of any age, including 13.5 million more people, according to the People’s Policy Project, like college students, older adult relatives and dependents of all ages with disabilities (not just those under 17 years old). The $600 billion Republican proposal would count $500 per dependent of any age (PDF).

The second change to eligibility would include all “mixed-status households” with one or more family members who aren’t US citizens. For example, if the parents aren’t US citizens, but their children, who were born in the US, are. The second stimulus checks expanded eligibility to families with one US citizen spouse.

Some families might get more money next time, even with a targeted check

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 make more groups of people eligible to receive a stimulus check (namely noncitizens who pay taxes), and bring a larger check total to qualified individuals and their families. A change to your circumstances might also mean you qualify for more money this time. Here are other ways a third stimulus check could put more money in your pocket.

If a $1,400 payment happens, could some people still get $2,000?

Biden’s stimulus plan calls for the next check to max out at $1,400 per eligible adult — not the $2,000 some originally expected. The idea is that this third check “raises” the $600 maximum set out in the second stimulus check to $2,000, once you combine the per-person payment totals — but without factoring in dependents.

One question is whether, if the qualifications were extended to new groups of people who weren’t included in the first round, the new recipients could get the entire $2,000 sum. There hasn’t been significant public discussion around the topic, so it’s one we’ll continue to monitor — but we wouldn’t necessarily hold our breath.

For more information about stimulus checks, here’s other funding that could be in the next stimulus package, how to estimate your third stimulus check and everything your stimulus check has to do with taxes (and the other way around).

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