Stimulus check qualifications may be more complicated than you think

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Congress hasn’t yet agreed who’ll be eligible to receive a second stimulus check, but it’s expected that more people will be included the second time around.


Sarah Tew/CNET

While talks to finalize a new stimulus bill haven’t made much progress over the past month, there’s still at least a sliver of hope that legislation or an executive order could yield a second stimulus check in 2020. 

The eligibility rules of the first stimulus check are expected to form the basis of determining how much money you could get in a potential second round. The requirements could also shift to become more inclusive of some demographics, depending on factors like your yearly income and the number of dependents you have who can’t get their own stimulus check.

But they’re also complex and lean on tax code, which is anything but straightforward. We share what we know below. CNET’s stimulus check calculator can estimate how much you could get in a second payment. And here are some steps to follow if your first stimulus check never arrived or if you don’t normally file taxes and want to claim your payment. We update this story regularly.

Stimulus check qualifications: Could you be eligible?

We won’t know for certain who will qualify for a new stimulus payment until Congress passes the legislation. We can, however, draw from the first stimulus check’s eligibility requirements and the Heroes Act and HEALS Act proposals (neither of which is law) to get an idea of who may or may not get a second check, including a few unexpected qualifiers below. 

Both Republicans and Democrats are using adjusted gross income, or AGI, to determine the payment amount for individuals and families, which would cap at $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples.

Who might qualify for the next stimulus check

Qualifying group Likely to be in final bill Unlikely to be in final bill
Individual An AGI of less than $99,000, under both proposals
Head of household An AGI of less than $146,500, under both proposals
Couple filing jointly An AGI less than $198,000, under both proposals
Dependents of any age No dependents limit specified, under HEALS Act Up to 3 dependents, under Heroes Act
Noncitizens who pay taxes Under Heroes Act
Incarcerated people Under CARES Act
Owe child support CARES Act excludes those who owe child support. Heroes Act includes them
US citizen living abroad Included under CARES Act
Live in US territory Under CARES Act, payments handled by each territory’s tax authority
SSDI recipients Included under CARES Act
Tax nonfilers Included under CARES Act


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More dependents may be eligible for money

While the initial payments authorized under the CARES Act included $500 for dependents aged 16 and younger, the HEALS and Heroes Act would both loop in any dependent, regardless of age, including college students and adult dependents. (Here’s the youngest you can be to qualify for your own stimulus check.)

The Democratic plan would extend $1,200 each, for up to three dependents, so a family of five people could receive a maximum of $6,000. The Republican plan would provide $500 for each dependent you claim on your taxes, but the HEALS Act doesn’t specify a cap on the number of dependents.

Nonfilers could qualify a second time

Those who weren’t required to file a federal income tax return in either 2018 or 2019 could still be eligible for a stimulus check under the CARES Act. If that guideline doesn’t change for a second stimulus check, this group would qualify again. Here are reasons you might not have been required to file:

  • You’re over 24, not claimed as a dependent and your income is less than $12,200
  • You’re married filing jointly and together your income is less than $24,400
  • You have no income
  • You receive federal benefits, such as Social Security or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). See below for more on SSDI.

With the first stimulus check, nonfilers needed to provide the IRS with some information before they could receive their checks. The IRS is reaching out to 9 million Americans who may fall in this category but have not requested their payment to notify them they may be due a payment.

SSDI recipients could likely claim stimulus checks

Those who are part of the Social Security Disability Insurance program also qualify for a check under the CARES Act. Recipients would not receive their payments through their Direct Express card, which the government usually uses to distribute federal benefits, but through a non-Direct Express bank account or through a paper check. SSDI recipients also need to use the IRS’ Non-Filers tool to request a payment for themselves and dependents.

This is who didn’t receive a first stimulus payment 

For the payments authorized under the CARES Act, which became law in March, these groups were excluded:

  • Single taxpayers with an AGI over $99,000.
  • Heads of households with an AGI over $136,500.
  • Married couples with an AGI over $198,000.
  • Children over 16 and college students under age 24.
  • Nonresident aliens, as defined by the US government.
  • People who are incarcerated.
  • People who died since the previous tax filing. (Their families may not collect on their behalf and are expected to return the payment.)

For more, here’s what we know about the major proposals for a second stimulus package. We also have information on unemployment insurance, what you can do if you’ve lost your job, if you could receive two refund checks from the IRS and what to know about evictions.

Shelby Brown contributed to this report.

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