By Meegan Dugan Bassett
Following months of negotiations, President Trump signed a bill into law on December 27, 2020 that included a second round of stimulus checks. Despite continued disagreement over the size of the checks, this means that many Americans are now eligible for a second payment of $600, and a payment of $600 for each eligible dependent under the age of 17. While Democrats in the House have pushed for higher checks, opposition in the Senate makes it unlikely that a higher amount will be sent out at this time. However, a third check may be possible in the future. By Tuesday the 29th, the Treasury Department had already started releasing payments into the bank accounts of individuals who had shared their bank account numbers with the IRS for income tax returns or payments. Paper checks were expected to be sent out starting the following day.
Who’s eligible for the second stimulus check?
Anyone who has a valid Social Security Number, had income under $75,000 in 2019 ($150,000 for couples), and can’t be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s taxes is most likely eligible for the full payment. You do not need to have income to be considered eligible, but you may have to take action to receive a stimulus check if you didn’t in 2020. For those with higher incomes, the amount is reduced in step with how much higher their incomes are.
This time around, families where one spouse doesn’t have a Social Security Number, but the other does are now eligible for at least a partial payment (see more below). A court case last fall also means that being incarcerated should no longer be a barrier to receiving a stimulus check.
If you received your first stimulus check, you should receive your second stimulus check automatically
The IRS is using both 2019 taxes and registrations from their Non-filer tool to send out the second round of checks. If you already received your first stimulus check you should already be in line to receive the second check. Unfortunately, the IRS currently is not accepting new registrations via their Non-filer tool for those who earn too little to file taxes.
What makes the second stimulus checks different?
One of the most important changes is for families where one spouse has a Social Security Number and the other does not. Previously, the married partner with a Social Security Number was penalized. However, the new law allows the partner with the Social Security Number to receive both the first and second stimulus checks, as well as the dependent credit for any children under 17 with valid Social Security Numbers. Both checks may be claimed using the Recovery Rebate Credit on a 2020 tax return.
The upper income eligibility cut-off for the second stimulus check will be lower this time since the check amount is lower. Fewer individuals who earn more than $75,000 (or $150,000 for married couples) will be eligible for partial payments.
Who might not receive the second stimulus check?
In September, the IRS estimated that around 300,000 Illinoisans were eligible for the first check but hadn’t received it. In some zip codes on the south side of Chicago, Waukegan, Chicago Heights, and East Moline, between 2,000 and 4,000 people were eligible but still hadn’t received their checks.
People who didn’t receive the first check most likely will need to take action to receive the second check. However, you can still receive it. The IRS Non-filer tool is currently not available. But, filing taxes for 2020 and requesting the Recovery Rebate Credit will make sure the IRS sends the second stimulus check to you. Nonprofit organizations like Heartland Human Services and Chicago Coalition for the Homeless have received training on how to help people receive their checks. For regular clients without a mailing address, nonprofits may even be able to provide a mailing address to help you receive your check.
What should I do if I never received my first check?
You might need to take action to get a check if it’s been a while since you’ve filed taxes or if you didn’t register in 2020 using the IRS’ non-filer tool before Nov. 21st. Eligible individuals can file 2020 taxes and claim both stimulus checks by claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit on your tax return. This also applies to families where one spouse doesn’t have a work-eligible Social Security Number but the other does. Those families can now request both stimulus checks for the spouse with a Social Security Number and any dependents under the age of 17 with work eligible Social Security Numbers.
Entering a bank account number when you file taxes will help ensure you will receive your check much more quickly. Find more information about low-cost, safe banking options through BankOn on our Banking Help page.