Third stimulus check details so far: Payment size, qualification changes, timeline


The latest proposal for a third stimulus check would change the rules, from the maximum payment to who qualifies.

Sarah Tew/CNET

On Friday, the IRS and Treasury sent the last stimulus checks for up to $600 per person, capping off a tight timeline to get the second payments into hands (here’s what to do if yours didn’t arrive). But even before the deadline hit, new details of a potential third stimulus check were already on President-elect Joe Biden‘s lips. If Biden gets his way, some important stimulus payment qualifications could change — including more than double the second check’s per-person maximum.

If Biden’s plan passes as is stimulus check proposal (PDF) would approve a payment of up to $1,400 per eligible adult, not the $2,000 as many had thought. The idea would be to”raise” the $600 second stimulus check maximum to $2,000, when combining the per-person payment maximums. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package also includes a $400 weekly unemployment bonus.

Biden’s stimulus proposal is the first step toward a third stimulus payment during the nation’s unrelenting coronavirus pandemic, one that could see strong opposition to its passage (more on that below). It also raises a tremendous number of questions about the timeline for sending the checks; how much money would go toward dependents this time; if it would include more taxpayers who are not US citizens; and if dependents of any age would be counted in the final bill. Here’s what we know so far.

Why would the check be for $1,400 instead of $2,000?

Ironically, President Donald Trump — who was impeached on Wednesday and faces his second trial in the Senate — set serious discussions of a $2,000 stimulus check in motion when he initially delayed signing December’s stimulus bill and demanded to raise the $600 ceiling on the second stimulus check to $2,000.

“We will finish the job of getting $2,000 in cash relief to people who need it most,” Biden said Jan. 14 in a press conference. “Even for people who have kept their jobs, getting this check is really important,” 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,” he said.

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. Combined with the $600 check that went out, a full $,2000 maximum would bring a combined total of up to $2,600 per person, without calculating 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.

How soon could a $1,400 stimulus check be approved?

Biden didn’t indicate when he would attempt to push through his stimulus package, and it isn’t clear if the IRS would automatically send checks to recipients as they have been doing with the second stimulus check, or if the money would be wrapped up into a Recovery Rebate Credit that everyone who doesn’t get a their second check shortly after the Jan. 15 deadline will have to claim as part of filing for taxes.

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Second stimulus checks: Everything you need to know


2 proposed changes to stimulus check qualifications

Biden proposes two changes that have been popular among Democratic lawmakers:

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.

What could stand in the way of a $1,400 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 Thursday 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 much money could a third stimulus check really bring your household? We’ll soon see.

Sarah Tew/CNET

“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 President-elect Joe 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 incoming Vice President-elect Kamala Harris set to act as a tiebreaker.

A third stimulus check could deliver more money multiple ways

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.