$600 or $2,000? The Senate debates putting more stimulus money in your pocket – CNET


Your second stimulus check could be around half as much as the first — but there’s more.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While a $600 stimulus check is already being delivered to millions of Americans, there’s still a chance that payment could rise to $2,000. President Donald Trump and Congressional Democrats are pushing to increase the $600 upper limit for the direct payment in the just-approved coronavirus-relief bill.

Though Trump signed the bill Sunday, he said he wants to boost the payment amount to $2,000 apiece, something Democrats voted to support as part of a second stimulus check in the House this week. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have held up the legislation, making the approval of the larger amount for the second stimulus check uncertain in the coming days.

If the $2,000 total payment is approved, there are still details we don’t know. It isn’t clear if the $600 payment for child dependents would stay the same or if certain rules, like the formula used to calculate your stimulus check total, would shift. (Here’s who we know might not qualify.) 

As we await developments on the larger payment, we’ll help you figure out how much money a second stimulus check might bring you overall, comparing the maximum sum households could get with a $600 or $2,000 second stimulus check — it may not be as simple as you think. This story was updated recently with new details.

$2,000, $600 or nothing? Compare the most money your household could receive

If a $2,000 second stimulus check does get approved, each household would stand to collect much more money than with the $600 check, that much is clear. But just how much, when you add in child dependents? Couples could expect a ceiling of $4,000, potentially making more households able to qualify for more money for relatively higher earners.

We compared the two side by side, assuming that children would still count for $600 apiece in the household total. This chart represents the maximum you could get, but many would in fact receive partial payments as a result of diminishing returns based on your adjusted gross income or other eligibility factors.

Stimulus check money: $600 vs. $2,000

$600 stimulus check ($600 per child age 16 or under) $2,000 stimulus check ($600 per child age 16 or under)
Individual taxpayer, no child dependents $600 maximum $2,000 maximum
Head of household, 1 child dependent $1,200 maximum $2,600 maximum
Head of household, 2 child dependents $1,800 maximum $3,200 maximum
Head of household, 3 child dependents $2,400 maximum $3,800 maximum
Married couple, no child dependents $1,200 maximum $4,000 maximum
Married couple, 1 child dependent $1,800 maximum $4,600 maximum
Married couple, 2 child dependents $2,400 maximum $5,200 maximum
Married couple, 3 child dependents $3,000 maximum $5,800 maximum

$600 maximum payment: Why fewer qualify for a second stimulus check

Now that the $900 billion stimulus bill has passed, we know some people won’t receive the full $600 allotment per adult in the second stimulus check. It turns out that the IRS uses the same formula to calculate the amount you would receive based on your adjusted gross income, or AGI, and using a sliding scale. But because the base amount is lower ($600 versus $1,200 from the first stimulus check), the rest of the math works out differently, too. It is not necessarily split in half.

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For example, with the first ($1,200) check, a single tax filer who had an AGI under $75,000 received the full $1,200. As the income level rose, the total they were entitled to receive dropped. After $99,000, they weren’t eligible to get anything at all. 

But with the $600 maximum amount, the cutoff is still $75,000 to receive the maximum amount. But using the formula laid out in the text of the bill, the cutoff to receive a check of any amount as an individual (with no children) is an AGI of $87,000. So with the first check, any individual taxpayer who made between $87,000 a year and $99,000 still received a partial check. This time around, they will not receive any.

Children change the equation, which is why we recommend using our stimulus check calculator for a better estimate of your personal financial picture. (It does not store or use your personal information.)

$600 second stimulus check income limits

AGI to receive full amount AGI to phase out of payment Income limit for first check
Single tax filer Under $75,000 $87,000 $99,000
Head of a household Under $112,500 $124,500 $146,000
Married, filing jointly Under $150,00 $174,000 $198,000

How you could get more if another $1,200 stimulus check happens in 2021

If a $1,200 stimulus check materializes in 2021, or maybe just in case you’d like to play a game of hypotheticals, we did some math based on previous proposals on how much more stimulus money some people could potentially see if certain rules changed.

More people qualify as a dependent: One Democratic proposal has expanded the definition of “dependent” to include anyone you can claim on your tax returns — such as children over 16 and adults under your care. That would be $500 more per person you support, with potentially no cap. If you had one dependent who qualified in the first round and three that qualify in the second, that would get your family $1,000 more if you had no other changes.

Child dependents get more money: The most recent White House proposal would keep the same age restriction for children, but double the payout to $1,000. So if you have one dependent, your second check could be $500 larger.

You gain another dependent: If you had or adopted a child, you may see $500 to $1,000 more, depending on the final bill.

Your employment status changed: If you became unemployed this year or your wages dropped, that could lower your AGI, which is used to determine the payment. For example, if you got a partial payment with the first check, you may receive a full payment if you are no longer employed.

You got married: Depending on several variables that include your spouse’s filing status and any new dependents, a change in marital status could result in a larger check. For example, if you were single and filing alone, you got $1,200 max. Married, you could be eligible for $2,400 maximum, since the IRS formula used to determine your total stimulus money is based on your combined household income.

You now share custody of a child: If you meet specific qualifications, you and the child’s other parent may both be entitled to claim extra stimulus money. That means you could get $500 more in the second check, especially if anything in your situation changed from the time you filed your 2018 tax return to 2019. The second check allowance will be based on your most recent tax filing.

A rule change concerning incarcerated people becomes permanent: A federal judge has ruled that the IRS owes stimulus checks to inmates in prison who qualify. If the ruling stands, these people may be entitled to a second stimulus check of up to $1,200, as well as the first. That’s a potential $2,400 total for individuals, with more potential money for dependents.

You’re an undocumented immigrant: Democrats propose that undocumented US residents should be eligible for stimulus relief funds if they pay taxes, as part of the Heroes Act that passed the House of Representatives in two forms, but which is not law. If that qualification goes through, it could mean that some people who did not get a check as part of the CARES Act could get a second check. If it works retroactively, individuals may be eligible for both payments. This is contingent, along with the rest of the stimulus check qualifications, on the details of a new law.

There’s a potential for $1,200 to $2,400 for this group, with more for dependents. For a married couple with two young children who didn’t receive the first check, the second round could possibly yield as much as $3,400.