One of the more notable and broadly popular congressional pandemic relief measures has been direct payments to millions of households. More are on their way soon: On March 11, a day after the House passed the final version of the American Rescue Plan, President Biden signed the $1.9 trillion stimulus plan into law. Now many Americans (including children) will receive a third $1,400 stimulus check in a matter of days. Here are the latest updates on who is getting a third stimulus check and when they may arrive.
Why Is There a Third Stimulus Package?
Despite nearly constant discussion of “stimulus checks” throughout the pandemic, Congress and the Trump administration only agreed on two. The first, offering $1,200 checks to adults with an additional $500 for children, was enacted in March of 2020 via the CARES Act. The second check provided $600 for adults and another $600 for children and was authorized by the omnibus appropriations and stimulus bill enacted at the end of December.
Nearly all Democrats and even some Republicans thought the December legislation was inadequate in size and scope (there was not, for example, any aid to state and local governments, a major Democratic priority). Meanwhile, the pandemic’s winter surge reached frightening new levels, vaccine distribution needs a major boost, and the economy, as reflected in the December and January jobs reports, is looking anemic.
Joe Biden made it clear since before the election that he would favor a new and expanded stimulus package upon taking office. Since there was significant bipartisan support for making that second check $2,000 instead of $600, the new Biden administration decided to “plus up” the direct payments with a third $1,400 check.
Who is eligible for the third stimulus check?
The $1,400-per-person payments will be made to adults, children, and for the first time, adult dependents. So, as Intelligencer’s Eric Levitz explains, “A single mother who cares for a child and a disabled sibling would receive a $4,200 check.”
The eligibility standards, however, spurred a serious debate, with Republicans and some moderate Democrats like Joe Manchin complaining that distributing the new check amounts by the old CARES Act formula would wind up benefiting families who are not in need and will not spend the money in a way that will benefit the economy. Following modifications made in both Houses, the legislation will more sharply phase out payments for those with higher incomes.
Here’s how much Americans can expect, with eligibility based on 2019 or 2020 income tax data, depending on what the IRS has on hand:
• Eligible for the full $1,400 check: Adults who earned $75,000 or less, married couples who earned $150,000 or less, and heads of household who earned $112,500 or less.
• Eligible for a reduced check: Adults who earned between $75,000 and $80,000, married couples who earned between $150,000 and $160,000, and heads of household who earned between $112,500 and $120,000.
• Not eligible: Adults who earned more than $80,000, married couples who earned more than $160,000, and heads of household who earned more than $120,000
An additional $1,400 will be provided for each dependent — including children and adult dependents — with no cap, provided that their guardian makes under the limits above.
Who Voted for the Stimulus Package?
In addition to a third round of checks, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan has many other elements, including $300 a week in federal supplemental unemployment insurance through September; $350 billion in aid to state and local governments; $170 billion for schools and universities; $25 billion in rental assistance (along with an extension of the 2020 eviction moratorium until September) and $5 billion for those threatened with homelessness; big increases in the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit; paid leave for 109 million Americans; $40 billion for child care; $50 billion for COVID-19 testing; and $20 billion for COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
The decision to move the massive spending package through Congress via the budget reconciliation process meant that it could remain virtually intact, but it would require the support of nearly all Democrats in both chambers. Ultimately, only two Democrats voted against the House bill, and not a single Republican supported it. The exclusion of the minimum wage provisions by the Senate parliamentarian eliminated the one issue on which Senate Democrats had been publicly divided (though only two, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, objected to it). On March 6, the Senate passed the bill on a party-line vote of 50 to 49; Republican Dan Sullivan of Alaska was not present. The final version then went back to the House, where it passed on a 220-211 vote, with no Republicans voting for it and just one Democrat voting against it.
When Will the Third Checks Go Out?
After Biden signed the COVID package into law on Thursday, March 11, the White House said Americans could begin seeing direct deposit payments hit their bank account within days. Sure enough, some families have already received their funds.
People can use the IRS’s Get My Payment tool to check the status of their stimulus check.
For those waiting to receive their payment by mail, it will take the form of a paper check or an Economic Impact Payment (EIP) card, a prepaid debit card. These are expected to take longer to arrive than the direct deposits. CNET reported that the first physical checks might be sent out the week of March 15 with EIP cards possibly being mailed during the week of March 29th.
For those who previously received their last stimulus payments on an EIP card, the IRS will be mailing out brand new cards, rather than reloading the funds on past ones. The card will be sent “by U.S. Mail in a white envelope with the U.S. Department of the Treasury seal and a return address from ‘Economic Impact Payment Card.’” The front of the card will say Visa and the back will have MetaBank®, N.A., the name of the issuing bank.