CORONAVIRUS

Second stimulus check: has eligibility changed from first payment?

US Congress on Monday passed a $900bn coronavirus aid bill that includes a $600 second stimulus check for qualifying Americans.

Second stimulus check: has eligibility changed from first payment?
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS AFP

The United States Congress on Monday passed a $900bn coronavirus stimulus bill that includes another round of stimulus checks for qualifying Americans.

While March’s $2.2tn CARES Act provided checks of up to $1,200, on this occasion the maximum amount people will be eligible for is just $600. However, households will be able to claim more for dependents aged 16 or under, with this additional credit rising from $500 to $600 per child.

President Donald Trump is yet to sign the new stimulus bill into law.

Second stimulus check: who qualifies?

The income eligibility requirements for the second round of stimulus checks - officially known as Economic Impact Payments - will be very similar to those used in the CARES Act.

The full amount will again go to individuals with a gross annual income of up to $75,000, while joint filers on under $150,000 will get a shared $1,200. However, whereas the CARES Act gave a steadily decreasing amount to those earning up to $99,000 ($198,000 for couples), the maximum phase-out limit this time around is down to $87,000 ($174,000).

The earnings declared in people's 2019 tax returns will be used to determine their eligibility.

Those who did not submit a return for last year because their income was too low are expected to be able to claim their check through the Non-Filers tool on the Internal Revenue Service’s website. If you used this portal to register for the first stimulus check, you should receive the new direct payment automatically.

According to AARP, meanwhile, those who receive the following federal benefits should also get their stimulus check without having to take any action: Social Security Old-Age retirement; Survivors or Disability Insurance; Supplemental Security Income; Railroad Retirement Board; and Veterans Administration.

Excluded from CARES Act, included this time

Among those who were ineligible for the CARES Act checks but will be included in the second round are people who have a Social Security number but file jointly with someone who doesn’t. They will also be able to claim money for child dependents who belong to that household (as long as they also have a Social Security number).

Incarcerated Americans were also left out of the previous check, but will qualify for payment under the terms of the relief bill passed this week.

One eligibility change that did not come about was the inclusion of dependents aged 17 and over, despite reports in the US media that this might happen. According to the Tax Foundation, the removal of the age limit on dependents would have made as many as 26 million more Americans eligible for the credit.

You’ll find a more comprehensive list of who is and isn’t eligible for the second stimulus check here.

Trump calls for higher stimulus check amount

Speaking on Tuesday, President Trump railed at the $600 second stimulus check, urging Congress to increase the figure, which he described as "ridiculously low", to $2,000.

Trump’s comments came as part of an attack on the coronavirus relief bill as a whole, which he referred to as a "disgrace". "Send me a suitable bill or else the next administration will have to deliver a covid relief package," he said, suggesting he would veto the legislation.

However, it should be noted that the bill - which was passed together with a $1.4tn government funding package - has sufficient votes in Congress to override a presidential veto.

In response to Trump’s comments, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) called for Congress to act on $2,000 stimulus checks right away. "House Democrats have fought for months to provide relief to the American people, which Republicans rejected at every turn," Hoyer said. "Now that the president has agreed to direct payments of $2,000, we will ask for unanimous consent to pass a bill this week to give Americans this assistance."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) added on Twitter: “At last, the President has agreed to $2,000 - Democrats are ready to bring this to the Floor this week by unanimous consent. Let's do it!"

Biden promises Americans third stimulus check

However, it seems likelier that Americans will get their $600 checks for now and then receive another payment after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in in January. Biden has previously referred to the new bill as no more than a “down payment”, and has committed to sending people a third check as part of another relief package in 2021.

“It will, yes it will,” the Democrat said when asked this week whether another check will be a part of the aid bill he plans to push Congress to pass. He did not say how much it could be worth, however, describing this point as “a negotiating issue”.

The amounts involved in the aid package Biden wants are likely to depend on the outcome of two Senate run-off elections in Georgia on 5 January. Democrats kept control of the House in November’s congressional elections, but the upper chamber will remain in the Republicans' hands unless both run-offs are won by the Democratic candidates. Since the CARES Act was passed, GOP senators have fought to keep stimulus spending to a minimum.

Second stimulus check: live news

You can get updates on the new stimulus bill and the second round of checks by following our dedicated live blog.