New stimulus check in the works? What we know about the 4th payment debate

The fate of a fourth stimulus check is to be decided.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Is Washington considering a fourth stimulus check? Since March, the IRS has made 165 million third stimulus payments and continues to send out weekly batches of checks. But some in Congress are already pushing for a fourth check, either in the form of another one-time check or as recurring payments. Others in Washington, however, say the money would be better spent elsewhere.

“People don’t only need relief, they need stability, certainty, and predictability,” said Democrat Representative Pramila Jayapal on the need for $1,000 recurring monthly payments through the pandemic. Some in Congress say a fourth check is not needed now. “This economy is poised to boom,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. “I can’t imagine the economy is going to need a fourth round.”

Right now, President Joe Biden hasn’t committed to a fourth check, and one isn’t in either of Biden’s new stimulus plans. (That letter you may have received this month from Biden is about the third check, not the fourth.) However, the proposals do contain other ways you could get thousands of dollars in benefits or tax breaks, including $3,600 per kid from the new child tax credit, and up to $16,000 in tax credits for child care expenses like day camp and after-school care. We’ll share what we know. Meanwhile, here’s how to check on your tax refund and find out if the IRS owes you money for a previous tax refund. This story was recently updated.

Could a fourth stimulus payment become part of Biden’s new plans?

The American Rescue Plan approved in March was Biden’s first stimulus package, with its $1,400 checks$300 extra in weekly unemployment benefits and an expanded child tax credit running into 2022. (See if you qualify for the recurring child tax credit payments.) 

The Biden administration advocates two sequel stimulus bills for 2021. Neither proposal calls for a new stimulus check at this stage. However, Democratic members of the House and Senate have thrown their weight behind a fourth stimulus check, including recurring or monthly payments. Earlier this spring, a group of 10 progressive lawmakers, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, asked Biden to include regular stimulus payments (PDF) in his next stimulus bill.


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“We urge you to include recurring direct payments and automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions in your Build Back Better long-term economic plan,” the statement said. A few weeks later, another group of 21 Democrats made a similar request to Biden.

The $1,400 stimulus check also was left out of early proposals for what would become the December 2020 stimulus law, with an agreement to include the $600 stimulus check squeaking through as a late addition.

How the next stimulus ‘check’ could arrive

The American Rescue Plan contains three types of payments with money going directly to individuals, one of which is the $1,400 stimulus check. It’s possible a future bill could extend or introduce more money through direct payments that go to specific groups of recipients, such as parents who earn below a certain income or people out of work.

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Here are the three types of direct payments approved in the March 2021 bill:

Stimulus checks: The one-time stimulus payments have been sending up to $1,400 apiece to those who meet the requirements. (Here’s what to know about “plus-up” payments for people who may get more money on top of the check they already received.)

Child tax credit: An expansion of the child tax credit for 2021 sends qualifying families up to $3,600 for each child — you can calculate your child tax credit total here. These periodic checks will last through the end of the year, with a final payment in 2022. 

Federal unemployment bonus: A monthly federal unemployment check is being sent until Sept. 6 at up to $300 a month, in addition to state benefits for unemployed workers.


Congress has already approved a variety of aid this year.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Future checks could come in this form instead

The third leg of Biden’s economic stimulus strategy — called the American Families Plan — could include more money going out directly to individuals and families. Here’s how.

Approve recurring payments: Biden’s American Families Plan proposal is the next likely place for Congress to provide more funding. This is where Democratic senators are calling on Biden to push for recurring fourth stimulus checks during the pandemic.

Make the child tax credit raise permanent: Money from the expanded child tax credit is set to start in July, sending periodic payments to lower-income and middle-income families with children. In his speech before Congress, Biden called on the House and Senate to extend the expanded child tax credit to 2025. Others, including Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, also support making the credit permanent since it will lift millions of children out of poverty.

Pass a minimum wage hike: Some senators continue to look for ways to boost the federal minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25 per hour. In his speech before Congress, Biden called on the legislators to raise the minimum wage to $15. Sens. Romney and Kyrsten Sinema have also pitched a hike. Some proponents want to set the bar at a $15 hourly wage but others are looking to go to $11 an hour. “If any senator believes this is the last time they will cast a vote on whether or not to give a raise to 32 million Americans, they are sorely mistaken,” Sanders tweeted on March 5. A February report from the Brookings Institute models how a $15 minimum wage could help make 37% of US households financially self-sufficient.

Renew federal unemployment payments beyond September: Along with recurring payments, the 10 progressive senators in their letter to Biden requested he also extend federal unemployment assistance beyond September.

Here’s how to report a problem with your stimulus check, how to know if your state owes you money and how you could get a discount on your internet bill through an FCC program.

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