October 28, 2020
New hope for the stimulus bill: What could be in it and what's happening now

New stimulus check qualification? White House proposal changes one eligibility rule


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It’s expected that millions more people will be included the second time around.


Angela Lang/CNET

Washington negotiations to strike a deal on a new economic relief package with a second stimulus check will continue into the weekend. If authorized, a new check could be worth up to $1,200 per person, and when it will happen remains in question. However, after the White House presented a new $1.8 trillion offer Friday, we have a better idea of who could be eligible — including one big change that could affect your total sum (more below on that).

The murky world of stimulus qualifications takes some navigation.The parameters to qualify include your adjusted gross income (AGI) from your federal taxes. Rules may also change based on your personal circumstances as an independent adult, dependent or older adult or retiree. Qualifications may also vary if you’re in the SSDI program or if you’re a US citizen living abroad or a citizen of a US territory.

Try CNET’s stimulus check calculator for an estimate of what you could get paid should another direct payment get a green light, and read on for a primer on the likely eligibility rules. We regularly update this story.


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Will I get $500 more for my dependents? Or $1,000?

Two previous stimulus proposals would expand the definition of who counts as a dependent, bringing $500 per person you claim on your taxes, regardless of the person’s age. This notable change from the first stimulus check would give some families more stimulus money in a second payment.

However, the White House’s Oct. 9 offer seeks to largely keep the definition of a dependent to “children” (it’s not that simple), but raise the value to $1,000, which would still net many families more money.

Relatively few dependents were eligible for any money at all under the CARES Act. Dependents aged 16 and younger were allotted $500 as part of the family payment, but new proposals from both Democrats and Republicans seek to expand the definition of a dependent to include people regardless of age — that means college students and adult dependents.

You can calculate your estimated total here.

How do I know if I qualify for another stimulus check?

It’s likely that if a second stimulus check emerges, it’ll follow many of the guidelines from the CARES Act that governed the first check in March but 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

How do my taxes impact my 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.

I didn’t file tax returns in 2018 or 2019. What should I do? 

People who weren’t required to file a federal income tax return in either 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, 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 (SSDI). See below for more on SSDI.

With the first stimulus check, non-filers 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 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 in this category but who haven’t requested their payment.

I’m retired — will I get another 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 payment. 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 or not the IRS considers you a dependent would likely contribute to your chances of receiving a second payment. 

I’m an SSDI recipient. Can I still receive a second 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 I’m 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.

Groups that were not included in the first check

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

  • Single taxpayers with an AGI over $99,000.
  • Heads of households with an AGI over $136,500.
  • Married couples with an AGI over $198,000.
  • Children over 16 and college students under age 24.
  • Nonresident aliens, as defined by the US government.
  • People who are incarcerated.
  • People who died since the previous tax filing. (Their families may not collect on their behalf and are expected to return the payment.)

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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