Could a fourth stimulus check actually happen? Here’s what we know right now – CNET

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Will Congress send a fourth stimulus check? That’s a gamble.


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In the year sine the coronavirus pandemic began, the US government has now approved three stimulus checks for a combined maximum total of $3,200 per person across all three checks. As COVID-19 vaccines rapidly increase and economic optimism begins to emerge, could a fourth stimulus check happen? Or would more direct payments arrive in a different form than the third stimulus checks being delivered now?

It’s a fair question. A group of 10 Democratic senators (PDF) has already petitioned President Joe Biden to include more money for direct stimulus payments in the next spending bill, the Washington Post reported — and on a recurring basis, no less. “As you prepare your Build Back Better plan for long-term economic recovery,” the senators wrote in a March letter to Biden, “know that we are ready to work with you in support of recurring direct checks.”

The answer may depend on what happens to the economy, to people who are unemployed and to the poverty rate. Some 20 million Americans are out of work, with the lowest-wage workers hit the hardest by the pandemic, suggesting that not every part of society will recover at once. In the meantime, we offer some of Congress’ options if the economy continues to stumble or rebound unevenly. For more about stimulus payments, here’s what to know about the third check for $1,400, how to calculate your new stimulus payment total and how to track your payment. This story was recently updated.

A new stimulus bill is coming in 2021. Could it include another check?

The just-passed American Rescue Plan is the first spending package in 2021, with  $1,400 checks$300 extra in weekly unemployment benefits and an expanded Child Tax Credit lined up. Now, the Biden administration is working on a sequel, a package the president refers to as the Build Back Better plan. That proposal aims to invest in the nation’s energy grid, transportation, broadband and water systems and may not include stimulus checks — despite the urging of progressive senators (PDF) including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

(Note: There’s some debate over what counts as a “relief,” “rescue” or “stimulus” package. For the purpose of this article, “stimulus” refers to any funding, check or measure in response to the coronavirus pandemic or to inject money into the US economy.)


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Stimulus check 3: How much money you’ll get

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A future ‘stimulus check’ could take a different form

The American Rescue Plan doesn’t authorize just one check. It actually contains three direct payments designed to help struggling individuals and families. It’s possible a future bill could extend or introduce more money through direct checks that go to specific groups of recipients, including parents who earn below a certain income or people out of work.

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

Stimulus checks: The new one-time stimulus payments send up to $1,400 a piece to those who meet the requirements.

Child Tax Credit: An expansion of the Child Tax Credit for 2021 sends qualifying families $3,600 for each child under age 6 and $3,000 for children age 6 or older, in periodic payments through the end of the year

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.

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Congress has already approved a handful of aid this year.


Sarah Tew/CNET

More ways Congress could send money to people this year

Recurring payments: Biden’s infrastructure bill is the next likely place for Congress to provide more funding. This is where Democratic Senators are calling on Biden to push for recurring stimulus checks during the pandemic.

Minimum wage hike: Senate Democrats at the last minute yanked a provision in the American Rescue Plan to boost the federal minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25 per hour, over a number of years. But proponents will look to include the $15 hourly wage boost in another bill. “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. “We’re going to keep bringing it up, and we’re going to get it done because it is what the American people demand and need.”

Extension of the Child Tax Credit beyond 2021: The new bill expands the Child Tax Credit, sending periodic payments to lower-income and middle-income families with children, but only through the end of 2021. According to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Biden wants to make the Child Tax Credit permanent. Others, including Republican Senator Mitt Romney, also support making the credit permanent since it will lift millions of children in the US out of poverty.

Renew federal unemployment payments beyond September: Along with recurring payments, the 10
Democratic senators in their letter to Biden requested he also extend federal unemployment assistance beyond September. “We urge you to include .. automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions in your Build Back Better long-term economic plan,” they wrote.

For more information, here are all the ways the American Rescue Plan can help you, how much money you could expect in the third check and how to track your stimulus payment.

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