Second stimulus check: who'll qualify for direct payment?

Lawmakers in the US are close to agreeing a new coronavirus relief package that is expected to include a second round of stimulus checks.

Second stimulus check: who'll qualify for direct payment?
Rick Wilking Reuters

Talks over a bipartisan coronavirus relief package worth around $900bn are ongoing in the United States, with lawmakers in Washington saying they are close to agreeing a bill that is expected to include a second batch of stimulus checks.

US legislators were set to work through the weekend in a bid to agree both a covid-19 relief bill and a $1.4tn federal funding bill, which is needed to avoid a government shutdown.

Smaller stimulus checks set to feature in bipartisan package

Although it had appeared that another round of direct payments - which would follow on from those sent out as part of March’s CARES Act - would not feature in the $900bn package when it was first unveiled, checks do now look like being a part of the legislation.

Speaking on Wednesday, Republican Senator John Thune, the second-ranking GOP member in the Senate, told reporters that payments of around $600 or $700 are in line to be included.

This represents around half the amount paid out in the CARES Act round of checks, which saw Americans earning less than $75,000 a year receive $1,200.

Senate pair see $1,200 proposals blocked; Trump wants checks of up to $2,000

In response to this reduced figure, two senators, Republican Josh Hawley and Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, both attempted to table bills proposing stimulus checks of up to $1,200 - but had their bids blocked by GOP Senator Ron Johnson.

On Thursday, meanwhile, White House aides reportedly stepped in to prevent President Donald Trump from urging Congress to approve stimulus checks potentially rising as high as $2,000. “Aides told Trump his demands could blow up [relief] talks,” the Washington Post’s Jeff Stein said.

Second stimulus check: what would the income threshold be?

It is thought that the income threshold for the stimulus checks in the forthcoming bipartisan bill would be the same as the requirements laid out in the CARES Act.

This means that the full amount would again go to those earning up to $75,000 a year, while a gradually smaller amount would be paid out to Americans with an annual income higher than that, ending at a final phase-out limit of $99,000.

More for dependents - and broader eligibility

But while the basic second stimulus check figure is a significant drop from the CARES Act payments, the amount that households can claim per dependent may well be higher than in the first round, and with a broader scope of eligibility.

Whereas the CARES Act stimulus checks only allowed for an additional $500 credit per person, Thune revealed to reporters on Wednesday that families are likely to be able to claim the $600 or $700 second-stimulus-check figure for their dependents, too.

Furthermore, it is being reported that adult dependents would be eligible, having been left out of a CARES Act that only included those aged 17 or under.

According to the Tax Foundation, a non-profit body that focuses on tax policy in the US, the removal of the CARES Act age limit would make as many as 26 million more people eligible for the dependents' credit.