The United States Senate is back in session this week, allowing stimulus check negotiations to resume. While the details of the economic impact payment itself are nearly agreed upon, there are still a few provisions on the table that could alter eligibility rules. Americans who missed out on the first round could be getting a windfall this time, if the bill ever passes.
The second stimulus package has been trapped in limbo in the U.S. Congress since May, with the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives unable to reach an agreement. However, Americans have been frustrated to hear that the two sides are more or less agreed on the stimulus check itself. Other aspects of the bill — such as emergency unemployment enhancement and business liability protections — have really held the talks up.
If that was ever going to change, the time is coming up soon, since both sides are eager to pass a popular stimulus package before the 2020 presidential election. Since the deal is not set in stone, there are still plenty of potential changes on the table for the bill, including the stimulus check itself.
The best guesses at stimulus check eligibility are drawn from three sources: the CARES Act, the HEROES Act and the HEALS Act. Congress passed the CARES Act in March, issuing the first stimulus check, and the house passed the HEROES Act in May, although the Senate ignored it. The Senate then released the HEALS Act in July, which is seen as the Republican counter-offer to the HEROES Act. Analysts have drawn on these three bills to determine what is most likely to pass.
The Senate returns from a month-long recess on Tuesday, Sept. 8, and while negotiations have been ongoing, they are expected to pick up back in Washington, D.C. Here is a look at some groups that could benefit from the stimulus check, depending on how those talks go.
There are estimated to be millions of people paying taxes to the U.S. government and living in the country who are not U.S. citizens. These are generally recent immigrants who came to the U.S. for a job, and have not yet completed the extensive immigration process to become official residents or citizens. These noncitizen taxpayers were excluded from the first stimulus check, but the HEROES Act would have qualified them for the second.
Analysts at CNET suggest that it is unlikely this HEROES Act provision will make it into the final bill, but nevertheless it is possible. In the spring, the exclusion of noncitizen taxpayers from the stimulus check was a huge problem, not just for them but for their spouses and partners. According to a report by ABC News, an estimated 2 million Americans did not receive stimulus checks because they had filed their taxes jointly with a noncitizen spouse, rendering their whole family ineligible for the program.
It's also worth noting that anyone in this group or the groups below is subject to the same income parameters as qualifying Americans, so an immigrant who came to the U.S. for a high-paying job would not be eligible for the check regardless.prevnext
Technically speaking, Americans in prison or jail were eligible for a stimulus check under the CARES Act, although in many cases they did not receive them. Still, if the language of the bill is not changed very specifically, the nation's 2.3 million prisoners will technically qualify again. Activists are working diligently to ensure that those imprisoned get the money they are entitled to.
In May, PrisonPolicy.org published a report on correction authorities intercepting and returning stimulus checks as they were sent to inmates. It came to light that they were doing so under the direction of the IRS, with no legal basis for doing so. Under the CARES Act, those prisoners were rightfully entitled to their money.
Reports by The Associated Press, Newsweek and others have since confirmed these illegal seizures, though so far neither correctional officials nor the IRS has faced consequences for it. There is a chance that prisoners will be eligible again for the next stimulus check, though CNET predicts they will be specifically excluded to avoid this issue.prevnext
People who Owe Child Support
Under the CARES Act, overdue child support was the only form of debt that was allowed to be collected from a person's stimulus check. While credit card companies, mortage holders and other creditors could not come for the payments, parents could. The HEROES Act sought to change this, making it so even child support could not take a person's stimulus check away.
This is another HEROES Act provision that is unlikely to make the final bill, according to CNET. Still, At the time of this writing it is technically on the table, along with just about everything else as a bargaining chip.prevnext
Once again, the eligibility for the stimulus check will be based on annual gross income (AGI) on each American's most recent tax filing. Early on, Republicans discussed changing the requirements, although negotiations with White House officials seemed to change that. Now, the income thresholds in the CARES Act, HEROES Act and HEALS Act are all the same, so they are almost certain to pass that way in the final bill.
An individual is eligible for a stimulus check of $1,200 if their AGI was $75,000 or less on their last tax filing. For people with a yearly salary over that amount, the check would decrease by $5 for every $100 added to their AGI; so, a person who made $75,100 would get a check for $1,195; a person who made $75,200 would get $1,190; and so on. At an AGI of $99,000 per year or more, there would be no stimulus check at all.
The amounts are simply doubled for couples who file taxes jointly. A couple that made $150,000 or less together would get the full amount in one check of $2,400. That would decrease incrementally up to an AGI of $198,000.
Finally, a taxpayer who files as their "Head of Household" would get the full $1,200 stimulus check if their AGI was $112,500 or less. Again, the amount would decrease incrementally up to an AGI of $146,500.prevnext
Under the CARES Act, taxpayers got an additional $500 in their stimulus check for each dependent they claimed — as long as those dependents were not adults and had a valid social security number. This left out elderly Americans living with family, and young adults like college students, who were still claimed as dependents in many cases even if they lived alone and paid their own bills.
The HEROES Act tried to amend this by making all dependents eligible for an additional $1,200, regardless of age. However, each family was limited to just three dependents, for a maximum of $6,000 for a family of five.
The HEALS Act made dependents eligible for the additional $500 regardless of their age, however, it did not set a limit on the number of dependents a family could claim. This would be a huge benefit to larger families, but would mean less money for most Americans overall. As negotiations stand now, the HEALS Act's dependent policy appears to be the most likely to pass.prevnext
Finally, all of the stimulus check plans currently include social security beneficiaries, veteran affairs beneficiaries and railroad retirement beneficiaries in the stimulus check, just as the first round did. This a relief to people living on a fixed income — especially since those groups often do not need to file taxes every year. Additionally, the first round of stimulus checks allowed the IRS to collect payment information for millions of Americans, so the second round of checks may go out faster than the first one did.prevnext
Where Negotiations Stand0comments
Whether any of this information seems encouraging or not, the negotiations themselves are at a standstill. Democrats and Republicans failed have to reach an accord on the stimulus package since May, and the stalemate is only getting more tense. Last month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed that she and the other Democrats are "not budging" from their proposed budget of $2.2 trillion for the stimulus package, while Republicans have so far refused to climb any higher than $1.3 trillion.
The two sides have a lot to work out before they can reach an agreement, but on the other hand, they have a strong incentive to do so. Negotiations resume formally on Tuesday, Sept. 8.prev