Stimulus Checks

How much were the first, second and third stimulus checks and when were they sent out?

There have been three rounds of federal stimulus aid in the US since the start of the pandemic under two different administrations. We take a look back.

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How much were the first, second and third stimulus checks and when were they sent out?
Daniel Slim AFP

First round of economic stimulus checks: April 2020

The CAREs Act included a provision for a round of stimulus payments – eligible tax-paying adults received a check of up to $1,200 while eligible dependents under 16 years of age received $500 each (a maximum of three dependents could be claimed for).

The payments were made to everyone earning under the income limits, which were set at Adjusted Gross Income of $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples filing jointly) with the stimulus check value reducing in a tapered fashion up to a maximum of $99,000 ($198,000 for married couples filing jointly). The very first stimulus checks were paid into people's bank accounts over the weekend of the 11 and 12 of April, either via direct deposit into individuals’ bank accounts, paper checks sent through the post or in some cases, through a prepaid debit card, the Economic Impact Payment (EIP) Card which were sent out in late May/early June last year.

Second round of direct payments: December 2020-January 2021

The second round of aid, a $900 billion package which was part of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 was signed off by Trump on 27 December 2020. It provided a one-off check of up to $600, but this time, households were also able to claim an additional $600 for child dependents aged 16 or under. Those who earned under $75,000 in the 2019 tax year received the full stimulus check, while a steadily smaller figure was given to those on a higher annual income, up to a maximum phase-out limit of $87,000. The first payments, through direct deposit and paper checks with some later payments made by EIP 2 Cards, were issued between 29 December 2020 and 15 January 2021.

Those who didn’t receive a stimulus payment either through the CARES Act or the December Covid-19 Relief bill were able to claim for it retroactively when they filed their federal tax returns for 2020 through the IRS Recovery Rebate Credit.

Third round of stimulus checks: March 2021

Barely a week after the second round of stimulus payments were completed, new president Joe Biden entered office and immediately unveiled his American Rescue Plan, which proposed a third of round of payments to Americans, including some of those who might have missed out on the first two rounds.

On Thursday 11 March, Biden signed his $1.9tn American Rescue Plan into law. The third payment provided eligible individual taxpayers for a check of up to $1,400, while couples filing jointly could receive a maximum of $2,800. In addition, families with dependents were eligible for an extra payment of $1,400 per dependent, regardless of the dependent's age – this time, there was no limit to the number of dependents that could be claimed for.

The first stimulus payments were issued swiftly - just hours after Biden has signed the bill, the first batch of 164 million payments, with a total value of approximately $386 billion, arrived by direct deposit in individual’s bank accounts. Some received their payments on the weekend of 13/14 March 2021. Since then, payments have been sent on a weekly basis. The total number of sent checks is more than 171 million as of publication.

What next?

Discussions for a fourth stimulus check are at an impasse. As vaccinations are increasing at a slow but steady pace, the country's economy continues to recover from the pandemic.

The loosening of restrictions has helped businesses both local and national, and now more work is available. Companies are struggling to fill the spaces for workers, leading to a rise in wages across the country. However, this wage increase is not quite matching the rate of inflation, a fact that Republicans have used to attack President Biden.