En español | President Biden has signed the American Rescue Act legislation that will provide people with stimulus checks of up to $1,400 for eligible individuals. On March 10, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 220-211 to pass the same version of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act that the Senate also recently voted to approve. The legislation will provide additional funding for COVID-19 vaccinations, enhanced unemployment benefits and other programs to mitigate the impact the pandemic has had on the American economy.
The Senate made several changes to the version of the bill the House of Representatives passed on Feb. 27, including the details of how the third round of stimulus benefits will be paid. Now that the House has passed this revised version of the bill and the president has signed it, government agencies will begin to release the funds the new law provides.
There are significant differences in the amount of money available in the current round of stimulus payments compared with previous rounds of relief checks, most notably with the amounts for dependents. In the third round, eligible dependents will receive more than twice the amount they qualified for in previous rounds, and dependents over age 16 also will be eligible for money. Here's what you need to know about the third batch of stimulus checks.
How much will I get, and who will be eligible?
The maximum amount for the third round of stimulus checks will be $1,400 for any eligible individual or $2,800 per eligible couple filing taxes jointly. Each eligible dependent — including adult dependents — also will qualify for a payment of $1,400. That means a family of four could receive as much as $5,600 in total.
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Under the version of the bill that the president has signed, single adults who reported $75,000 or less in adjusted gross income on their 2019 or 2020 tax return will receive the full $1,400 payments, as will heads of household who reported $112,500 or less. Couples filing jointly who earned $150,000 or less in adjusted gross income will receive the full $2,800. The size of the payment will gradually decrease for those who earned more than those amounts, until it disappeared entirely for higher-income households. Single filers who earned more than $80,000 in adjusted gross income, heads of household who earned more than $120,000, and couples filing jointly with more than $160,000 in income will not receive stimulus payments in the third round.
The increase in the amount dependents can receive is one big change with this third round of stimulus payments. For the first round of payments, checks were $500 per eligible dependent younger than 17. The amount was $600 per eligible child dependent for the second round. But this time around, for the first time, adult dependents will be eligible to receive stimulus payments. That change could be a big financial boost to families who serve as caregivers for their loved ones or who have students older than 16 in college or pursuing other educational opportunities. AARP has advocated strongly during each round of proposed relief legislation for adult dependents to be eligible for stimulus checks.
I made less money in 2020 than I did in 2019. How will that affect my third stimulus payment?
For the first two rounds of payments, the Treasury Department generally used information from 2019 tax returns — or in some cases 2018 returns for the first round of payments if 2019 returns had yet to be filed — to determine how much individuals and families qualified for in stimulus payments.
The new legislation says the Treasury Department can use information from your 2019 or 2020 tax returns to determine your eligibility for a payment and how large it might be. But if you lost your job last year or otherwise saw a big drop in your adjusted gross income compared to 2019, you should file a 2020 tax return as soon as possible. The Treasury Department may use the more recent information to see if you qualify for a larger payment.
The third round of stimulus payments could start to be released soon, now that the legislation has been signed. Again, if your income decreased significantly last year, you should file your 2020 tax return as soon as possible.
What about Social Security recipients and other federal beneficiaries?
During the first round of stimulus payments last year, one of the big questions was what people who did not file a 2018 or 2019 tax return should do to get their stimulus payment, especially people for whom Social Security benefits were the primary source of income. Now that the government has been through the process of issuing payments twice already, things have run more smoothly with stimulus payments for non-filers.
According to the legislation for the third round of payments, you will not need to take additional steps to receive the third stimulus payment if you already receive federal benefits through any of these programs:
- Social Security Old-Age retirement, Survivors or Disability Insurance
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Railroad Retirement Board benefits
- Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits
AARP played a big role last year in getting the government to issue stimulus payments automatically to recipients of Social Security, SSDI, SSI, VA and other federally run benefits. AARP also advocated to have the maximum amount of the first round of stimulus be $1,200 rather than $600, the cap was that considered in one proposal.
When will I get my stimulus payment?
The IRS had sent 127 million payments worth $35 billion as of March 30, 2021. Another round of payments, for Social Security and Railroad Retirement Board beneficiaries who did not file 2019 or 2020 taxes – or use the IRS Non-Filers Tool – should be finished by April 7, the IRS says. The IRS says it expects to send stimulus payments to Veterans Affairs (VA) benefit recipients who don’t normally file tax returns by mid-April. Dependents of VA, Social Security, SSI or Railroad Retirement Board beneficiaries will have to file a 2020 tax return to get their stimulus payments.
If the Treasury Department has your bank account information on record, you most likely will receive your payment as a direct deposit. If the department does not have that information, you may receive the payment as either a paper check or a debit card, so be sure to keep an eye on your mail.
Kenneth Terrell covers employment, age discrimination, work and jobs, careers, and Congress for AARP. He previously worked for the Education Writers Association and U.S. News & World Report, where he reported on government and politics, business, education, science and technology, and lifestyle news.