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4th stimulus check? How you could get one or more payments in 2021

Will Congress sign off on a fourth stimulus check? There’s a chance.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Should you plan on a fourth stimulus payment this year? It may depend on how Congress defines “stimulus check.” Large batches of the third stimulus check for up to $1,400 per person are still going out from the IRS. But already, in Washington, some are talking about more direct payments, especially as President Joe Biden eyes a new infrastructure bill for 2021, one focused largely on revving the economy, fixing infrastructure and combating inequality.

In early March, a group of 10 progressive senators, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, asked Biden to include recurring stimulus payments (PDF) in the next spending bill: “We urge you to include recurring direct payments and automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions in your Build Back Better long-term economic plan. This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.” Later in March, another group of 21 Democrats made a similar request to Biden.

The current stimulus checks will cause the economy to grow rapidly, economists say, but also unevenly, with some cities projected to hurt for “decades,” even with COVID-19 vaccinations on the upswing and the US economy showing glimmers of hope. Would more direct payments arrive in a different form, something other than a “stimulus check“? We spell out some possibilities below. If you’re waiting for your third stimulus check, here’s how to track your payment and here’s how to contact the IRS with a problem. Also here’s how to calculate your child tax credit. This story is frequently updated.

Another economic stimulus bill is in the works. Could it include a fourth check?

Biden’s American Rescue Plan that passed in March 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 (see if you qualify for the recurring CTC payments). 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).

(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 new ‘stimulus payment’ could take a different form

The American Rescue Plan doesn’t authorize just one direct payment. It contains three checks 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 approved in the March 2021 bill:

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Congress has already approved a handful of aid this year.


Sarah Tew/CNET

More ways Congress could send a direct payment this year

Approve 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.

Pass the 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 proposed $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. A February report from the Brookings Institute models how a $15 minimum wage could help make 37% of US households financially self-sufficient.

Make the child tax credit raise permanent: 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 Sen. 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.

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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