Fourth stimulus check? Here’s how more money could come in 2021


Will Congress send a fourth stimulus check? That’s a gamble.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The current $1,400 stimulus checks under President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill will cause the economy to grow rapidly, economists say, but also unevenly, with some cities projected to hurt for “decades.” With COVID-19 vaccinations on the upswing and the third stimulus check going out now, is a fourth stimulus check a remote possibility? Or would more direct payments arrive in a different form, something other than a “stimulus check“?

There is support for another round of direct payments. In early March, a group of 10 progressive senators, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, asked Biden to include recurring stimulus payments (PDF) in the next spending bill: “We urge you to include recurring direct payments and automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions in your Build Back Better long-term economic plan. This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.”

However, what actually happens may depend on factors like the unemployment and poverty rates. Between 10 million and 20 million Americans are estimated to be out of work, with the lowest-wage workers hit the hardest by the pandemic, suggesting that not every part of society will recover at once. We lay out some possibilities below. If you’re waiting for your third stimulus check, here’s how to track your payment, and here’s how to contact the IRS with a problem. This story was recently updated.

Another stimulus bill is planned for 2021. Could it include a fourth check?

The American Rescue Plan passed in March is the first spending package in 2021, with  $1,400 checks$300 extra in weekly unemployment benefits and an expanded Child Tax Credit lined up. The Biden administration is working on a sequel, a package the president refers to as the Build Back Better plan. That proposal aims to invest in the nation’s energy grid, transportation, broadband and water systems and may not include stimulus checks, despite the urging of progressive senators (PDF).

(Note: There’s some debate over what counts as a “relief,” “rescue” or “stimulus” package. For the purpose of this article, “stimulus” refers to any funding, check or measure in response to the coronavirus pandemic or to inject money into the US economy.)

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Stimulus check 3: How much money you’ll get


A new ‘stimulus check’ could take a different form this time

The American Rescue Plan doesn’t authorize just one direct payment. It contains three checks designed to help struggling individuals and families. It’s possible a future bill could extend or introduce more money through direct checks that go to specific groups of recipients, including parents who earn below a certain income or people out of work.

Here are the three types of direct checks in the March 2021 bill:

Stimulus checks: The new one-time stimulus payments send up to $1,400 a piece to those who meet the requirements.

Child Tax Credit: An expansion of the Child Tax Credit for 2021 sends qualifying families $3,600 for each child under age 6 and $3,000 for children age 6 or older, in periodic payments through the end of the year

Federal unemployment bonus: A monthly federal unemployment check is being sent until Sept. 6 at up to $300 a month, in addition to state benefits for unemployed workers.


Congress has already approved a handful of aid this year.

Sarah Tew/CNET

More ways Congress could send money to people this year

Approve recurring payments: Biden’s infrastructure bill is the next likely place for Congress to provide more funding. This is where Democratic Senators are calling on Biden to push for recurring stimulus checks during the pandemic.

Pass the minimum wage hike: Senate Democrats at the last minute yanked a provision in the American Rescue Plan to boost the federal minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25 per hour, over a number of years. But proponents will look to include the $15 hourly wage boost in another bill. “If any senator believes this is the last time they will cast a vote on whether or not to give a raise to 32 million Americans, they are sorely mistaken,” Sanders tweeted on March 5. A February report from the Brookings Institute models how a $15 minimum wage could help make 37% of US households financially self-sufficient.

Make the Child Tax Credit raise permanent: The new bill expands the Child Tax Credit, sending periodic payments to lower-income and middle-income families with children, but only through the end of 2021. According to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Biden wants to make the Child Tax Credit permanent. Others, including Republican Senator Mitt Romney, also support making the credit permanent since it will lift millions of children in the US out of poverty.

Renew federal unemployment payments beyond September: Along with recurring payments, the 10
Democratic senators in their letter to Biden requested he also extend federal unemployment assistance beyond September. “We urge you to include .. automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions in your Build Back Better long-term economic plan,” they wrote.

For more information, here are all the ways the American Rescue Plan can help you, how much money you could expect in the third check and how to track your stimulus payment.

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