December 3, 2020
The next stimulus check is in limbo. When it comes, will your payment be larger or smaller?

Stimulus check talks are poised to restart soon. How big would your next payment be?


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How do you know how much money your next stimulus check could bring? We can help.


Sarah Tew/CNET

As the votes from the Nov. 3 election continue to be counted, the final results could have a strong impact on the next stimulus package, including whether there will be a second stimulus check this year.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, previously in favor of waiting until 2021 to resume the negotiations, has changed his focus to push through a stimulus bill in the remaining months of the year. In fact, McConnell said it’s his top priority when the Senate reconvenes Nov. 9. 

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle support new stimulus payments for individuals and families, and a second check is part of the current White House proposal. If the requirements change in any way, it could also increase or decrease the size of your check. So could a change to your personal circumstances.

While we wait and see what happens, we break down everything we know below about how much money could be in your second check. Use our stimulus check calculator to get a payment estimate. It may also be helpful to learn how the IRS determines payment amounts, who might not qualify and the exceptions that could take away a stimulus check altogether. This story was recently updated.

You could see more money in a second stimulus payment

If approved as part of an economic rescue bill, a second stimulus check is expected to roughly follow the guidelines used for the first stimulus check passed in March as part of the CARES Act. It may also include changes from previous proposals, possibly even the latest White House offering. For most people, the total amount you’re likely to receive is based on your adjusted gross income, or AGI, and other eligibility requirements.

Here are the scenarios in which you could receive more money from a second payment:

More people qualify as a dependent: The Democratic proposal for the next bill expands the definition of “dependent” to include anyone you can claim on your tax returns — such as children over 16 and adults under your care. So your number of dependents could increase.


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Child dependents get more money: A recent White House proposal would keep the same age restriction for children, but double the payout to $1,000.

Your employment status changed: If you become unemployed this year or your wages dropped, that could lower your AGI, which is used to determine the payment.

You got married: Depending on several variables including your spouse’s filing status and new dependents, a change in marital status could result in a larger check.

You now share custody of a child: If you meet specific qualifications, you and the child’s other parent may both be entitled to claim extra stimulus money.

A rule change concerning incarcerated people becomes permanent: A federal judge has ruled that the IRS owes stimulus checks to inmates in prison who qualify. If the ruling stands, these people may be entitled to a second stimulus check.

You’re an “undocumented immigrant”: Democrats propose that undocumented US residents should be eligible for stimulus relief funds if they pay taxes, as part of the Heroes Act that passed the House of Representatives in two forms, but which is not law. If the qualification goes through, it could mean that some people who did not get a check as part of the CARES Act could get a second check. If it works retroactively, individuals may be eligible for both payments. This is contingent, along with the rest of the stimulus check qualifications, on the details of a new law. 

Here are some potential scenarios for how the two different approaches could play out for families. You can use our stimulus check calculator to get a more specific estimate for your particular situation. 

Your family could benefit from a change in the definition of ‘dependent’

There’s a good chance that the next stimulus bill will expand the qualifications for dependents one way or another. You can read more about that here or above. What we’re seeing from two different proposals (neither of them law) is that in one scenario, you could get $500 for dependents of any age. In a different scenario, you could get $1,000 per child dependent — that would mean a 16-year-old or younger.

If you have a child, see below how that could affect your family. Note there are currently additional rules for stimulus check eligibility if you pay or collect child support.

Stimulus check calculations with dependents

Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Scenario 4
Tax filing status Single Head of household Married Married
2018 or 2019 tax AGI $45,000 $60,000 $160,000 $190,000
Estimated total with:
1 dependent under 17 ($1,000 total) $2,200 $2,200 $2,900 $1,400
3 dependents under 17 ($3,000 total) $4,200 $4,200 $4,900 $3,400
1 dependent of any age ($500 total) $1,700 $1,700 $2,400 $900
3 dependents of any age ($1,500 total) $2,700 $2,700 $3,400 $1,900

Your second stimulus check might actually be smaller than the first

In the first round of stimulus checks, the IRS, for most people, based the amount on their 2019 federal tax returns if they filed them and their 2018 returns if they didn’t. But some Americans who qualified for a check experienced personal or financial changes after filing that would affect a future payment. 

You might qualify for a smaller check if you:

Started a job or received higher pay: A change in your AGI, either because of a wage increase or a change in employment status, could reduce the check’s size.

Have fewer qualified dependents: Congress could keep the restrictive dependent requirements of the CARES Act, which was passed in March, and any dependents you claim could age out of eligibility.

Owe child support: Under the CARES Act, the government held back money to cover owed child support.

Owe money to private banks or creditors: Your stimulus money can’t be garnished to pay rent or federal tax, but these two groups could seize your check.

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The amount of stimulus money you could get in a second round of checks is still undecided. 


James Martin/CNET

How changes in your financial status could affect the size of your payment

With the first checks, if your financial situation changed after you filed your 2018 or 2019 tax return, you can claim that additional amount on your 2020 tax return when you file in 2021, the IRS said. You’ll likely need to take an extra step to claim your credit — the IRS will post more details closer to tax season 2020.

Also, with the first round of payments, you won’t be required to pay back a stimulus payment if, based on your 2020 tax returns, you no longer qualify for the amount you received.

Looking for more stimulus check information? Read up on all the finer points of the stimulus payment here. If you’re still waiting for your first stimulus check, here are 10 possible reasons for a delaywhat you can do if you think your payment was lost or has fallen through the cracks and whether you could receive two refund checks from the IRS.



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