Third stimulus check: Biden wants another direct payment in 2021. What we know


President-elect Joe Biden already had his sites set on a third stimulus check.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Hours before President Donald Trump threw the $900 stimulus bill into question by objecting to the $600 maximum for a second stimulus check, President-elect Joe Biden already committed to a third stimulus check for 2021.

“This bill is just the first step, a down payment, in addressing the crisis — crises, more than one — that we’re in,” Biden said Tuesday. When asked by a reporter if a future package would contain the third stimulus check and how much money he would seek, Biden said, “That’s a negotiating issue… But it will, yes, it will.”

It isn’t clear if Biden would pursue a third stimulus check if the second stimulus check grows to $2,000 as a result of Trump’s veto threat.

Trump has indicated he could veto the $900 billion stimulus package if Congress doesn’t increase the maximum payout from $600 per adult to $2,000 in the second stimulus check, but has not similarly demanded to increase funding to other programs listed in the bill, like $300 weekly unemployment checks for 11 weeks or money for COVID-19 vaccine distribution. (You calculate your $600 second stimulus check total here.) 

Biden said he plans to encourage Congress to pass a larger stimulus package after his Jan. 20 inauguration.

For months, the nation has fixated on when a second stimulus check would bring more economic relief to families, and to a US economy that has been tossed around by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 8 million people have fallen below the poverty line since the summer, according to the Washington Post; when daily positive COVID-19 cases are overwhelming hospitals across the nation; and as the death toll tops historic records. The vaccine for COVID-19 is currently being administered around the country, but officials say it will be many months before the majority of the population can be immunized.

Below, we detail what we currently know about stimulus checks in 2021.

If the $600 stimulus check happens: Less money to fewer people?

The second stimulus check passed and the IRS and US Treasury are ready to send it out faster this time, with tens of millions of people expected to receive the second direct payment by Dec. 31 and the rest to get theirs in early 2021. 

It gets complicated. There’s a self-imposed Jan. 15, 2021, cutoff for the IRS, after which time you’ll have to claim your second stimulus check as you file your yearly taxes. 

That isn’t the only mind-bender. Because the upper limit for a second check is $600 per adult, with an extra $600 per child dependent, the way the IRS’ formula works out, more people will hit the upper income limit for receiving a second payment, which means they won’t actually qualify to get any stimulus money at all.

With that in mind, a third stimulus check could take several angles, from addressing some of the population that the second stimulus check would have missed, to potentially sending a fresh wave of economic relief to those in greatest financial straits. 

Much could depend on who wins control of the Senate and what the new Biden administration sees as its goals in rehabilitating an economy weakened by the coronavirus pandemic. For now, we’re waiting to see what happens with the second stimulus check, while looking to early 2021 for more.

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Second stimulus checks: Everything you need to know


What else might be in a new stimulus bill for 2021

We already know some of Biden’s early economic stimulus objectives, which he shared as part of his presidential campaign trail. There’s a good chance that he’d push Congress to revisit those agenda items, in addition to several programs left out of this $900 billion bill by both Republicans and Democrats.

They could include measures like:

  • A third stimulus check that could reach more people.
  • Federal unemployment checks past March.
  • Renewing the eviction ban past Jan. 31.
  • Student loan deferrals.
  • More money for state, local and tribal governments.
  • More money for contact tracing, coronavirus testing and COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
  • Liability protection for businesses against coronavirus-related lawsuits.

For more information, here’s how to calculate your second stimulus check payment, who may not qualify for a check and a primer on the five different priority groups.