UPDATED: 6:50 a.m. ET, Dec. 21 —
Now that a second coronavirus economic stimulus package is all but officially a go, we’re getting closer to a guarantee that most American adults will be receiving additional compensation from the government in the wake of a global pandemic. But as with most things bureaucratic, it’s just not that simple — even though it should be. The recent developments on Capitol Hill meant to provide relief to citizens (and, of course, corporations) whose lives have been upended by the pandemic have instead caused some confusion as anxiety builds surrounding the respiratory illness that’s virtually made the United States the world’s epicenter for COVID-19.
The New York Times reported that the House and Senate finally agreed on a $900 billion deal that the president signed Sunday night, and a vote could come as early as Monday for an early holiday present to the millions of Americans struggling to make ends meet. Critics — including Democrats such as President-elect Joe Biden — have said the amount approved isn’t nearly enough. But the consensus is that it’s better than nothing, and Democrats are already looking to the next stimulus package expected to take shape shortly after Biden is sworn into office.
With all of that in mind, keep reading to find answers to some of the most pressing questions about the stimulus payments.
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When will they arrive?
This is the most urgent question people have as 1.8 million American filed for unemployment benefits last week — which is down significantly from the record number of jobless people when the first stimulus package was passed back in March. Unfortunately, the answer to that question varies, adding to the already mounting anxiety as the coronavirus surges, with more than 318,000 Americans dying from it and nearly 18 million cases. That was compared to more than 200 deaths and more than 65,000 American cases in March.
If the last stimulus package was any indication, the payments could be sent out as soon as two weeks after a successful vote in Congress. With the country’s current mail woes, that could mean an additional delay for some. And then there are the people who still haven’t gotten their first round of checks…
How much will you get?
This seems to be the next-most urgent question after it was announced that payments would be guaranteed to about 80 percent of American adults. However, much like the first question, this answer varies, too. But, unlike the first question, this answer has a bit more certainty. That’s because it’s based on a simple formula that is calculated depending on the last time you filed taxes.
People who earn $75,000 or less are guaranteed to get a payment of $600, just half the amount that was disbursed in March. There will be an additional $500 payment for each child claimed. There is relief for folks earning more than that, but not much more as people raking in more than $99,000 annually are exempt from getting any payment at all. Those earning between $75,000 and $99,000 are expected to receive payments at a reduced rate that is $5 fewer for every $100 more than $75,000 earned per year.
Married couples are eligible to receive no more than $1,200 if they collectively make less than $150,000 annually and can get smaller payments with total salaries not exceeding $198,000. They, too, are set to get $500 for each child.
Lastly, single parents earning up to $112,500 are also eligible to receive $600 payments with other heads of household earning no more than $136,500 getting less. The $500 per child policy also applies here.
An environmental scientist named Jasmine Mah built an online calculator to determine exactly how much individuals and families will be getting from the second stimulus checks. Check it out here.
Is it only direct deposit payments or are they paper checks?
Both. But again, this comes with a hitch. Taxpayers who filed for 2019 and indicated their payment preference — direct deposit or paper check — will get their stimulus payments in that form. However, if there was no preference indicated, then a paper check will be mailed to the physical address associated with the filing. For anyone else, the government will defer to paper checks, something that could take months to receive.
Will there be a third round of stimulus check?
Even though elected officials like Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib proposed a stimulus package that would put safeguards in place to ensure their citizens get regular payments for months, the United States is going on a case-by-case basis. As mentioned, it is widely expected that Biden will push for another round after he takes office next month. However, that is not a guarantee of anything. Back in March, it was expected that another stimulus check would be sent out over the summer, something that obviously did not happen.
Who is not getting a stimulus payment?
Aside from the wealthiest Americans, the underserved community of low-income residents who may not have filed taxes recently, or at all, are at risk of not getting paid even though they may need it the most.
What about unemployment benefits?
Just like the new round of stimulus payments, the “enhanced” unemployment benefits will also be halved from what they were back in March. That means those filing jobless claims will be eligible to receive payments of $300 per week for nearly four months. They’re scheduled to last through March 14, 2021. The extra 11 weeks of unemployment benefits for people who typically aren’t eligible for them — people who are self-employed or work part-time, for example — were expected to kick in just as the last round was set to expire the day after Christmas.