The coronavirus stimulus check for 2020 is a part of a multi-trillion stimulus package that reached bipartisan consensus in the Senate on Wednesday, March 25.
To be clear, the multi-billion dollar emergency aid package that was approved by Congress on March 18 does not include this stimulus check proposal. That package did include some forms of financial relief for Americans, including paid sick leave for workers, but no blanket funding for Americans. This new stimulus package includes the checks that will likely begin to go out to the American people in May, CNN reports, a few weeks after the initial goal of mid-April.
About 90% of Americans will be eligible for full or partial payments, according to the Tax Policy Center.
Here’s what’s known so far about the coronavirus stimulus check qualifications, regarding which Americans might get one and which won’t:
Stimulus Checks Will Likely Go to the ‘Middle Class on Down,’ Mitch McConnell Said
In a press conference leading up to negotiations, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin confirmed that the Trump administration explicitly wanted coronavirus stimulus checks to be sent in the immediate future, within three weeks of the passing of the stimulus package.
Following the conference, Mnuchin said on Fox, “The plan is $500 billion in two tranches. The first one would be $1,000 per person, $500 per child,” or $3,000 for a family of four, he explained. The proposal has since clarified that the checks could be up to $1,200 per adult.
Per the proposal, the first check would be issued on April 6, at the earliest, and another wave of payments might be issued in mid-May, pending how the coronavirus outbreak further impacts the economy.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “the second major pillar of our legislation will be even more straightforward [than the first emergency aid package]: Direct financial help for Americans.”
McConnell said this potential aid would be distributed “from the middle class on down. Period.”
Here are some more details about who will officially qualify for a stimulus check, and who won’t, based off of the final proposal:
The Checks Will Go Towards Taxpayers Making Less than $99,000 if Single, or $198,000 if Filing Jointly
Per the proposal, the checks will be “reduced for higher income taxpayers, and begin phasing out after a single taxpayer has $75,000 in adjusted gross income and $150,000 for joint filers.”
Then, the check would be “completely phased-out for single taxpayers with incomes exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers. The IRS will base these amounts on the taxpayer’s 2018 tax return.”
On a granular level, the proposal explains how this phasing-out might work: “The rebate amount is reduced by $5 for every $100 a taxpayer’s income exceeds the phase-out threshold.”
So for those who are imagining getting the full amount suggested ($1,200 for an adult), you would have to be making less than $75,000 in adjusted gross income as a single taxpayer, or less than $150,000 in a joint filing with your spouse. If you made more than that in 2018, then your check will be reduced — or it won’t come at all.
Millionaires, Nonresidents, Undocumented Individuals Would Not Receive Checks
Under the current proposal, many Americans will be excluded from the stimulus package, including millionaires, nonresidents, and undocumented people, along with anyone else who files their taxes with a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) rather than a Social Security number.
There Are Provisions in the Bill for People Who Didn’t Earn Enough to File Tax Returns
In the original proposal by Mnuchin, since the stimulus checks were based off of 2018 tax returns, there was a separate breakdown for those who have little or no income tax liability.
As long as those individuals have at least “$2,500 of qualifying income,” the proposal maintained they’d be eligible for some level of stimulus check, around $600 for single taxpayers and $1,200 for married taxpayers.
But the final package includes provisions for those who didn’t earn enough to file a tax return, CNN reports.
As noted by Heather Long for The Washington Post,it might be helpful to consider the precedent for these checks, to map out how this could play out in the coming months:
This isn’t a new idea. The United States has done this twice before. During the Great Recession, the federal government sent about every adult a $300 to $600 check (plus $300 per child). The same thing happened in 2001, when the majority of Americans received a $300 check.
In the last recession, checks went out to pretty much everyone who wasn’t a millionaire and filed a U.S. tax return, including Social Security recipients. Americans earning at least some income but less than $75,000 got the full amount, while wealthier people got less. The payments were sent by a check in the mail or direct deposit into a bank account.
In 2009, the Economic Stimulus Act sent out $14.2 billion of stimulus checks to the American people, in the form of a one-time payment to Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, veterans, and railroad retirees. Specifically, the government sent checks of $250 to over 52 million Americans, with the goal of encouraging those people to put that money back into the economy through purchases.
But where is the money for these stimulus checks coming from? The simple answer is taxes. So while it might feel like free money, it isn’t that simple.