Coronavirus Stimulus Checks

Third stimulus check: what's the maximum amount of money per family?

Congress are hashing out details of a third round of stimulus checks, so what are the eligibility requirements and what's the maximum available to families?

Third stimulus check: what's the maximum amount of money per family?
Samuel Corum AFP

President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) is the basis for current negotiations in Congress on a brand-new coronavirus stimulus package. It's very likely to include a booster $1,400 third stimulus check to add to the bipartisan $600 pay out in December, for eligible individuals.

Talks on a third bipartisan deal came to an end after a group of 10 Republican lawmakers proposed a targeted bill of just $600bn, which was a non-starter. Usually a 60-vote majority would be necessary to pass the bill but Democrats opted to use a process called “budget reconciliation.” For this type of bill, passing a budget resolution allows Democrats to pass a bill with a simple majority of 51, in other words without the support of the GOP.

What are the eligibility requirements for a third stimulus check?

The details are still being discussed in House committees this week while the Senate is in recess. However, these are the likely basic eligibility requirements based on Biden's American Rescue Plan, which is serving as the template, and the House Ways and Means Committee Recovery Rebates proposal.

All estimates are based on the most recent AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) on file with the IRS and, like the last two checks, up to a maximum ceiling will gradually phase out.

Maximum available amounts for lowest earners

  • $1,400 for qualifying individuals
  • $2,800 for qualifying couples who file a joint tax return
  • $1,400 for each dependent child under the age of 17
  • $1,400 for each qualifying adult dependent

Qualifying income thresholds and phase out limits

  • Single filers: under $75,000 gets full amount, phase-out begins thereafter. AGI of $100,000 and over gets no check.
  • Joint filers: under $150,000 gets full amount, phase-out begins thereafter. AGI of $200,000 and over gets no check.
  • Head of household: under $112,000 gets full amount, phase-out begins thereafter. AGI of $150,000 and over gets no check.

Head of household includes those who are single, widowed or divorced and claim a child as a dependent, for instance.

What's the maximum families could get?

That all depends on how many child dependents you have, and what your AGI calculation was on your most recent tax return - for most this will automatically be 2019, but if you earned less in 2020 get your tax filing done before Congress passes the next bill, you could get a bigger check.

Assuming you qualify for the maximum amount based on your AGI, and you're a family of two adult joint filers and one dependent, you'd qualify for a total $4,200. With two dependents - of any age - this would go up to $5,600, with three dependents $7,000 and so on.

To figure out what you could get based on your exact AGI, you can input accurate information into the Forbes stimulus check calculator and get an estimate. The calculator is updated as new details emerge.

When could stimulus checks be sent out?

The process for sending a third stimulus check will largely mirror the first two, though this time because of budget reconciliation, the process in Congress could be far quicker, as Democrats - narrowly - control both the House and the Senate.

The budget resolution was not the actual bill, so the bill still needs to pass through both chambers, in other words both chambers of Congress, Biden will then have to sign it into law, and then the IRS will do its work of sending checks out through various means.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Thursday  that she’s hopeful that her chamber can pass the $1.9tn bill by the end of February, adding that shortly afterwards is when she hopes that checks will be landing in the bank accounts of eligible Americans.

It’s important to note that in the process of passing the stimulus bill through Congress there are likely to b  negotiations and possible amendments, all of which could cause days or weeks of holdups to Pelosi’s proposed schedule.

"We hope to have this all done by the end of February," Pelosi said on 11 February. "Certainly on the president's desk in time to offset the March 14 deadline where some unemployment benefits would expire."

On Thursday, the House Ways and Means Committee passed the part of the proposal that includes up to $1,400 stimulus checks - based on the ARP – which will advance the bill to the next steps.

Timeline for stimulus checks before 14 March deadline

If all goes swimmingly with negotiations and a version of the bill with stimulus checks passes through Congress, there are two possible timelines that Cnet have drawn up, both following the assumption that the 14 March deadline that Pelosi imposed can be met, after which some existing pandemic benefits will expire.

The first scenario requires Congress to pass the bill by Friday 26 February – this could happen, but is not likely. In this case, Biden would sign the bill into law on Monday 1 March and the IRS would send the first direct deposit checks the week of 8 March, with paper checks sent 15 March and finally EIP cards the week of 22 March.

The second timeline has Congress passing a bill by Friday 12 March and in this case President Biden could pass the bill on Sunday 14 March. The week of 22 March is when the IRS would begin paying the direct deposits to bank accounts, followed by paper checks on 29 March and finally EIP cards on 5 April.

Find out how your federal tax return filed before 15 April 2021 could affect how much you get in your stimulus.