January 24, 2021
Stimulus check requirements: Here's who might or might not qualify for a new relief payment

Stimulus check eligibility requirements: Who could qualify for a second direct payment?


Congress hasn’t yet agreed who’ll be eligible to receive a second stimulus check, but it’s expected that more people will be included the second time around.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With negotiations on a new stimulus package at a standstill and a pared-down GOP stimulus bill and new USPS funding entering the conversation, what are the chances for getting a second stimulus check for up to $1,200, and who would be eligible to receive it?

Both Republican and Democratic leaders say they are pushing for a deal. “Of course we all want the negotiations to continue,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday on CNN. “But not just what the administration wants but what the country needs.”

Since we don’t yet know what the eligibility requirements would be in another direct payment (if there is one), it’s possible that you may not qualify for it — even if you got the first stimulus check. On the other hand, signs point to at least one demographic that didn’t meet the requirements in the first round who could receive another check.

Read on for the full lowdown on everything we currently know about who could qualify for another stimulus payment — and who might be left behind. We update this story frequently.

Second stimulus check: Possible requirements

While we won’t know for certain who will qualify for a new stimulus payment until legislation is passed, we can draw from the first stimulus check’s eligibility requirements to get an idea of who may or may not get a second check, including the income limits and number of dependents.

Both Republicans and Democrats are using adjusted gross income, or AGI, to determine the payment amount for individuals and families, which would cap at $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples.

Who might qualify for the next stimulus check

Qualifying group Likely to be in final bill Unlikely to be in final bill
Individual An AGI of less than $99,000, under all proposals
Head of household An AGI of less than $146,500, under all proposals
Couple filing jointly income An AGI less than $198,000, under all proposals
Dependents of any age No dependents limit specified, under HEALS Act Up to three dependents, under Heroes Act
Noncitizens who pay taxes Suggested in the Heroes Act, which was not taken up by the Senate
Incarcerated Excluded under CARES Act
Owe child support The CARES Act excluded this group; the Heroes Act would include them
US citizen living aboard Included under CARES Act
Resident of US territory Under CARES Act, payments handled by each territory’s tax authority

More dependents might be eligible for a second payment

The CARES Act took a narrow approach to defining a dependent and allowed a $500 payment only for a child age 16 or younger in the family. The HEALS and Heroes Acts both take a broader definition and allow any dependent you claim to qualify for a payment — college students, children over 17, disabled relatives and taxpayers’ parents.

The Democratic plan as outlined in the Heroes Act would cover $1,200 each, for up to three dependents, so a family of five people could receive a maximum of $6,000. We don’t think this is a likely outcome in the final bill, considering the Senate has not addressed it.

Like the CARES Act, the Republican plan outlined in the HEALS Act would provide $500 for each dependent, but doesn’t specify a cap on the number of dependents.

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Who didn’t receive the first stimulus check

For the payments 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

When will Congress decide on stimulus check requirements?

Right now, the timeline for discussions is up in the air. Talks between Republican and Democratic negotiators on the new stimulus package stalled, but the two sides have signaled they are willing to pick up the debate. The Senate is on break until after Labor Day and the House after passing USPS funding having nothing scheduled, so the chances of a deal in August seem unlikely, but an agreement in September is now in the picture. After the sides reach a deal, the stimulus bill won’t take effect until the president signs it into law. 

While we won’t know for sure until the two sides come together on the next stimulus package, we have a good idea of when a check could be sent if a new bill passes.

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.

Shelby Brown contributed to this report.

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