Next stimulus check requirements: Who would qualify? What we know

The eligibility rules could shift with the third stimulus payment in a big way. There’s a lot to know.


Sarah Tew/CNET

The House of Representatives Friday night signed off on its version of the $1,400 stimulus payments that will come with the nearly $2 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. With the House vote, we have a much better idea of which individuals and families would meet the requirements to receive the third round of payments.

While the Senate will now take up the economic-relief proposal, the qualification guidelines for the checks, including for dependents and families with “mixed” US citizenship, appear close to set. With the vote, we know the next stimulus check will be “targeted,” which could affect the amount you receive or even disqualify you from getting a payment. While you could qualify for thousands of dollars more than last time (new tax breaks for children and older adults could also bring your family more money), your eligibility might also hinge on whether the IRS will use your 2019 or 2020 tax return to determine your payment.

We also have a good idea of how your adjusted gross income (AGI), agemarital statuscitizenship and tax status could change your payment. And we know the details for nonfilers and people with child-support situations. While you wait to see the Senate sign off on details, here’s how to claim any missing stimulus money from the IRS (or file a payment trace). In the meantime, here’s everything we know about eligibility and your stimulus money. This story is frequently updated.

More people could qualify for the third stimulus check, based on the House-approved bill

The proposal the House approved (PDF) would keep the income limit for individuals and families who’d qualify for a full stimulus payment the same as it was for the first two rounds of checks.

Some, however, would still be left out of receiving a payment.

Third stimulus check: Proposed qualifications

Qualifying group What’s proposed
Individuals An AGI of less than $100,000 to qualify for any payment amount
Head of household An AGI of less than $150,000 to qualify for any payment amount
Couple filing jointly An AGI less than $200,000 to qualify for any payment amount
Dependents of all ages $1,400 apiece, no cap — but only if guardians make under the above limits
Families with mixed US citizenship Provided they meet other qualifications
US citizens living abroad Yes, same as first two checks
Citizens of US territories Yes, same as first two checks, with payments handled by each territory
SSDI and other tax nonfilers Yes, but may require an extra step to claim (more below)
Incarcerated people Initially excluded by IRS interpretation, but now included by court order
People who owe child support Excluded under CARES, but included in second check
Disqualified groups Not covered by law
Non-US citizens “Resident aliens” aren’t included
Noncitizens who pay taxes Possibly, depending on “mixed-status” rules (more below)

Because the third stimulus checks are expected to max out at $1,400 — $200 more than the first round — some people who didn’t qualify for any previous stimulus money may actually get a small check this time. Here’s the income limit to qualify for the full amount under this plan, based on your AGI.

In the first round, single taxpayers earning $99,000 or more received nothing. According to CNET’s third stimulus check calculator, if a bill passes with the most recent guidelines, a single taxpayer earning $99,000 would receive a check for $56. 

Likewise, those who file jointly and earn $198,000 would get $112 this time, and heads of household earning $137,000 would get $486, compared with both categories of filers receiving nothing as part of the first two checks. Nothing is final until a new bill is passed and signed into law.

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Dependents are on track to qualify for the entire $1,400 amount

With the second stimulus check, each child dependent — age 16 and younger — added $600 each to the household payment. There was no cap on how many children you could claim for a payment. That total increased the amount per child from $500 in the first check, even as the per-adult maximum decreased from $1,200 per adult to $600 in the December stimulus plan.

The new proposal would send $1,400 to dependents in the third round of payments

Overall, more dependents of any age could be eligible for a payment

The stimlulus bill would open up eligibility requirements to both child and adult dependents. Dependents over age 16 didn’t qualify for the first and second checks, but a change here would make college students, older adult relatives and people of any age with certain disabilities entitled to receive money as part of the household total.

That change, if it it becomes law, would include roughly 13.5 million adult dependents who weren’t counted before, according to the People’s Policy Project.

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The final qualifications for a third stimulus check are still being settled.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Rules for ‘mixed-status’ households may change again in the finalized details

In the $900 billion stimulus package from December, a US citizen and noncitizen spouse were both eligible for a payment as long as they each had Social Security numbers. This has been referred to as a “mixed-status” household when it comes to citizenship. Households with mixed US citizenship were left out of the first check.

The proposal would include all mixed-status households where just one member has a Social Security number for a third stimulus check. That potentially includes families with citizen children and noncitizen parents.

It’s unclear if these previously excluded groups would receive the maximum amount. As we saw with the second stimulus check, dramatic changes can and do happen in the final moments of negotiation.

In the CARES Act from March, households with a person who wasn’t a US citizen weren’t eligible to receive a stimulus check, even if one spouse and a child were US citizens. 

Non-citizens weren’t eligible to receive the first two checks, but could get one this time

The CARES Act made a Social Security number a requirement for that first stimulus payment. Though other proposals would’ve expanded the eligibility to those with an ITIN instead of a Social Security number because they’re classified as a resident or nonresident alien, this group was excluded in the final bill text that authorized a second stimulus check in December as well. 

Congress has proposed expanding the qualifications to include all mixed-status families — where at least one member has a Social Security number — for a third check. However, on Feb. 4, the Senate passed an amendment blocking stimulus payments from going to undocumented immigrants. (This has no impact on eligibility for mixed-status families.) While the amendment isn’t binding, it seems unlikely that senators will change their position now that they’re on the record, according to The Hill.

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The definition of a child dependent didn’t change with a second stimulus check, but it could shift with a third.


Angela Lang/CNET

What to know about past-due child support and a third stimulus payment

If you owed child support, your first stimulus payment could have been taken for arrears (the amount you owed). With the second check, those who owed child support didn’t have their payment garnished to cover past-due payments. It’s unlikely we’ll see the third stimulus check walk this back.

However, one exception seems to be for people who are missing payments of any amount and need to claim the stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit in their taxes. The protection from garnishment laid out in the second check doesn’t extend to catch-up payments made in the Recovery Rebate Credit, according to the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent government agency that works with the IRS. That means that all or part of stimulus money received this way could potentially be seized to pay outstanding debts. The Taxpayer Advocate Service is urging the IRS to keep rebate credits intact.

Current law says people incarcerated can qualify for stimulus money

After months of back and forth, the IRS was ordered by a federal judge to send the first stimulus checks to people who are incarcerated. They aren’t excluded from the new law, which means eligibility for this group currently stands. It’s unclear if there will be any more details in the third stimulus check bill, though this is more likely to continue as a matter of interpretation, as it is now.

Your next stimulus check may be based on this if you’re considered an older adult or retired 

Many older adults, including retirees over age 65, received a first stimulus check under the CARES Act and are eligible for a second one — and likely a third, too. For older adults and retired people, factors like your tax filingsyour AGI, your pension and if you’re part of the SSI or SSDI program (more below) will affect if you receive a stimulus payment. 

The third stimulus check could make older adult dependents eligible to receive more money on behalf of the household. Here’s how to determine if you qualify for your own stimulus check or count as a dependent.

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How much stimulus money you could get depends on who you are.


Angela Lang/CNET

Non-filers have to take an extra step this year: File taxes to get stimulus checks

With the second payment, the IRS used your 2019 tax returns to determine eligibility. Non-filers, who weren’t required to file a federal income tax return in 2018 or 2019, may still be eligible to receive the first stimulus check under the CARES Act. And this group will qualify again. Here are reasons you might not have been required to file:

If you still haven’t received a first or second check even though you were eligible, you can claim it on your taxes in 2021 as a Recovery Rebate Credit.

SSI and SSDI recipients should qualify for stimulus payments

Those who are part of the SSI or SSDI programs qualified for a check under the CARES Act. Recipients wouldn’t receive their payments via their Direct Express card, which the government typically uses to distribute federal benefits, but through a non-Direct Express bank account or as a paper check. SSDI recipients can file next year to request a payment for themselves and their dependents.

In the December bill, these recipients again qualified to receive payments, along with Railroad Retirement Board and Veterans Administration beneficiaries. It’s likely that these qualifications would remain the same with a potential third check.

Here’s how your taxes and stimulus payment eligibility work in unison

For most people, taxes and stimulus checks are tightly related. For example, the most important factor in setting income limits is your AGI, which determines how much of the total stimulus payment you would be entitled to receive. The same will hold true with a third stimulus check.

Stimulus check proposal for income limits

Full $1,400 per person maximum (based on AGI) Not eligible (based on AGI)
Single taxpayer Less than $75,000 $100,000 or more
Head of household Less than $112,500 $150,000 or more
Married couple filing jointly Less than $150,000 $200,000 or more

Here’s what we know about whether Congress will use your 2019 tax information to determine your payment or if it will look at your 2020 tax returns to set your check amount — and what happens if you get too much money or not enough because of it.

For more information, here are the top things to know about stimulus checks today, everything you need to understand about stimulus checks and your taxes and what’s happening with a third stimulus check now.



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