$1,400 stimulus check versus $600 and $1,200 payments: What’s new and different

The three stimulus checks follow different paths.

Sarah Tew/CNET

After going through some last-minute changes in the Senate this week, the third stimulus check is all but settled. Now that the Senate has passed the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, the next step is another vote in the House to accept the changes and start the process of sending out the new $1,400 stimulus payments to you.

This would be the third time in a year the federal government has cut checks for direct relief against the deadly coronavirus. Each round has revealed different priorities for lawmakers, who have remained divided on every aspect of the checks, including whether or not they should exist. 

That tension once again plays out in the $1,400 payment (calculate your total), which more than doubles the per-person maximum of the second check, while finding new ways to bring families more money. On the other hand, it also includes the strictest income limits yet, which will result in fewer people qualifying for a check (here’s who would qualify.) We’ll compare the first $1,200 and second $600 payments to where the third check stands now, including a massive change to dependents. This story has been updated with new information. 

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Stimulus check No. 3: What you need to know


What the stimulus check differences mean for you

Each round of stimulus payments has varied on the maximum amount per person and how many people qualify to receive the check. The second check was the least generous on both counts, and took 9 months to become law. However, it also made some groups of people eligible who weren’t before, while sticking with the status quo on other provisions that more progressive lawmakers wanted to revise. 

The new check would change the game again, becoming more generous in some spheres, as with dependents and families with mixed-status citizenship, while also finding its way to fewer people than perhaps even the second check — at least based on a new stimulus check formula.

Read on to see how the three checks stack up. For more information, here’s what you need to know about stimulus checks today, including how to claim any missing stimulus money on your 2020 tax return, how tax season affects the third check and how to track your tax refund online.

Three stimulus checks, compared

Third check (March 6 version) Second check First check
Maximum total (per adult) $1,400 $600 $1,200
Dependents (flat rate) $1,400 (any age) $600 (16 and younger) $500 (16 and younger)
Income to receive maximum amount Under: $75,000 (single); $112,500 (head of household); $150,000 (married) Under: $75,000 (single); $112,500 (head of household); $150,000 (married) Under: $75,000 (single); $112,500 (head of household); $150,000 (married)
Single taxpayer upper limit $80,000 $87,000 $100,000
Head of household upper limit $120,000 $124,500 $146,000
Filing jointly upper limit $160,000 $174,000 $198,000
Citizenship Mixed-status families, where one member has a Social Security number Citizens and noncitizens with a Social Security number Citizens and noncitizens with a Social Security number
Date approved By March 14 Dec. 27, 2020 March 27, 2020
First payments sent To be determined Dec. 29, 2020 April 13, 2020
Final payments issued Dec. 31, 2021 Feb. 16, 2021 Feb. 16, 2021
Number of payments made To be determined Over 147 million Over 160 million
Total dollar amount distributed To be determined $142 billion $270 billion

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