October 30, 2020
New change to stimulus check qualifications? What two different proposals may mean for you

New stimulus check qualification? What could change, what might stay the same


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A change to qualifications could bring families more money.


Sarah Tew/CNET

We won’t know where the qualifications on a second stimulus check will settle until a final bill is approved one way or another, but three major clues reveal that at least one qualification will change. It’s possible there are other shifting details we don’t yet know about, which could affect how much money different groups of people could get based on their yearly income, tax status, age and more.

The qualifications and exceptions aren’t easy to follow, even if only one rule changes during the course of negotiations over a stimulus relief package. But we’ve simplified the most important information for everyone, from people who don’t usually file taxes to those looking for a refresher on what the income limits may be if the second round follows the first.

Below, we’ve detailed everything we know about stimulus check qualifications right now. Here’s what to know about the timeline for receiving a new stimulus check and how much money you may receive


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New proposed rules would favor some families more

Three separate proposals have changed the language concerning your dependents and how much money you could see in a final check if you claim them on your taxes. Two of these earlier proposals would add $500 for each dependent, regardless of the person’s age. 

The White House’s Oct. 9 offer seeks to largely keep the definition of a dependent restricted to “children,” but it raises the value to $1,000, which would still net many families more money. The first stimulus check added $500 per each child under 17 years old, but unless your dependents fell into a different category, children 17 and older and adult dependents, like a parent, were passed over. 

The first proposal would benefit families with older dependents, while the second benefits younger families. We’ll show you how to calculate your estimated total here.

Who might be able to qualify for a second stimulus payment?

It’s likely that if a second stimulus check is approved, it’ll follow many of the guidelines from the CARES Act that governed the first check in March. But it will also draw some changes from the revised Heroes Act and HEALS Act proposals, neither of which is law.

Who could qualify for a second stimulus check

Qualifying group Likely to be covered by the final bill
Individuals An AGI of less than $99,000 (Same as CARES)
Head of household An AGI of less than $146,500 (Same as CARES)
Couple filing jointly An AGI less than $198,000 (Same as CARES)
Dependents of any age As defined by your tax filing (HEALS proposal and revised Heroes Act)
US citizens living abroad Yes, same as CARES
Citizens of US territories Likely, with payments handled by each territory’s tax authority (CARES)
SSDI and tax nonfilers Likely, but with an extra step to file (more below)
Disqualified group Unlikely to be covered by the final bill
Noncitizens who pay taxes Proposed in Heroes Act, unlikely to pass in Senate
Incarcerated people Excluded under CARES Act
People who owe child support Included in Heroes proposal, but excluded under CARES

What role do taxes play in your stimulus check eligibility? 

For most people, taxes and stimulus checks are tightly connected. For example, the most important factor in setting income limits is adjusted gross income, or AGI, which determines how much of the $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples you could receive if you meet the other requirements.

Our stimulus check calculator can show you how much money you could potentially expect from a second check, based on your most recent tax filing. Read below for your eligibility if you don’t typically file taxes.

What if you didn’t file a federal tax return in either 2018 or 2019?

People who weren’t required to file a federal income tax return in 2018 or 2019 may still be eligible to receive the first stimulus check under the CARES Act. If that guideline doesn’t change for a second stimulus check, this group would qualify again. Here are reasons you might not have been required to file:

  • You’re over 24, you’re not claimed as a dependent and your income is less than $12,200.
  • You’re married filing jointly and together your income is less than $24,400.
  • You have no income.
  • You receive federal benefits, such as Social Security or Social Security Disability Insurance. See below for more on SSDI.

With the first stimulus check, nonfilers needed to provide the IRS with some information before they could receive their payment. (If you still haven’t received a first check even though you were eligible, the IRS has extended its deadline to use its Non-Filers tool through Nov. 21.) The IRS is also reaching out to 9 million Americans who may fall into this category but who haven’t requested their payment.

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How much stimulus money you could get depends on who you are.


Angela Lang/CNET

If you’re retired, will you get a second stimulus payment?

Many older adults, including retirees over age 65, received a first stimulus check under the CARES Act, and would likely be eligible for a second one. For older adults and retired people, factors like your tax filingsyour AGI, your pension, if you’re part of the SSDI program (also more below) and whether the IRS considers you a dependent would likely contribute to your chances of receiving a second payment. 

You receive SSDI — could you still see another stimulus check?

Those who are part of the Social Security Disability Insurance program also qualify for a check under the CARES Act. Recipients wouldn’t receive their payments via their Direct Express card, which the government typically uses to distribute federal benefits, but through a non-Direct Express bank account or as a paper check. SSDI recipients also need to use the IRS’ Non-Filers tool to request a payment for themselves and dependents.

What if you’re a US citizen living abroad, or live in a US territory?

You may still be eligible for a stimulus check, but the rules are different, as laid out with the first check. Here’s what you need to know.

Which people did not get the first check?

From the payment authorized under the CARES Act, which became law in March, these groups were excluded:

For more, here’s what we know about the major proposals for a second stimulus package. We also have information on unemployment insurance, what you can do if you’ve lost your job, if you could receive two refund checks from the IRS and what to know about evictions.



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