How a Third Stimulus Check Could Be Different From the First Two

A third stimulus check could soon be coming, as President Joe Biden encourages congressional leaders to pass his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

The massive price tag faces pushback from many Republican lawmakers, but Democrats — who have control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate — have largely signed off on the administration’s proposal. This week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told senators to be ready to vote as soon as next week on a budget resolution, which would lay the groundwork to pass the next bill without GOP votes.

“The work must move forward, preferably with our Republican colleagues, but without them if we must,” Schumer said. “Time is of the essence to address this crisis. We’re keeping all options open on the table.”

Some of the key points of Biden’s bill include funding for coronavirus vaccine distribution, grants for small businesses, a gradual increase in the federal minimum wage and an extension of additional weekly unemployment benefits. It would also provide another round of direct payments to households.

Here are four ways that stimulus check could differ from the first two payments, which eligible Americans received as part of the CARES Act in March 2020 and as part of the COVID-Related Tax Relief Act in December.


The base amount of the third round of stimulus checks is expected to be $1,400 for individuals — more than the $1,200 delivered under the CARES Act and the $600 that rolled out to bank accounts early this month.

For families, an extra $500 for each dependent child age 16 or under was provided in the first-round checks. That amount was raised to $600 for the second round of payments. This time, some lawmakers are calling for an additional $500 or $600.


Should Congress pass a standalone bill centered on stimulus checks, the payments could start going out to Americans in a matter of weeks. However, Biden is pushing for their inclusion in his sweeping relief package, which could take longer to shore up the votes needed for it to pass.

Schumer previously said he was looking to pass the next round of stimulus by mid-March, which is when additional unemployment benefits are set to expire for millions of Americans. Congress would have to pass the measure by March 12 in order to avoid that scenario.

Tax Returns

The IRS referred to Americans’ 2018 or 2019 tax returns to determine their eligibility for the first round of stimulus checks. If an individual did not file for those years, they were still able to send the IRS their information through its online portal. The agency also took information from the Social Security Administration, Railroad Retirement Boards or the Department of Veterans Affairs. For those who did not provide any information to the government, the IRS offered the option to claim their recovery rebate credit on their 2020 federal tax returns.

This year, the IRS is expected to begin processing returns on Feb. 12. The tax deadline, which was extended by three months last year, remains on April 15, but those who file sooner could get not only their federal tax refund sooner, but also their third stimulus check.

Social Security

Without a Social Security number, people were unable to qualify for the first-round payments. For families, both parents were required to have a Social Security number to get the extra $500 per child. However, the COVID-Related Tax Relief Act loosened those guidelines, allowing married couples to claim the additional $600 per child even if one of the spouses does not have a Social Security number. It also made the rule applicable to the first round of checks, which meant they were able to claim up to $1,200 plus the $500 as a recovery rebate credit if they were denied the payments under the CARES Act.

It’s possible that having a Social Security number will no longer be a requirement to get a third-round check. Under the HEROES Act passed in the House but denied by the Senate last year, individuals — including non-U.S. citizens — would need only a Taxpayer Identification Number to get the new round of payments.

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