A recent Census Bureau survey shows that nearly half of U.S. households have taken a painful hit to their pocketbook during the steep recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic, spurring calls for the federal government to offer Americans more direct financial assistance.
While it’s unclear whether Congress will approve a second stimulus check anytime soon, lawmakers are at least considering opening the spigot. The proposed $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or HEROES, Act would authorize another batch of stimulus payments for most households.
The bill passed the House in May and now awaits debate in the Senate. Adding to the political momentum for more stimulus money, Trump administration officials earlier this month said they are considering a second round of funding.
The first round of stimulus checks, directed by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act in March, faced criticism from advocacy groups and taxpayers alike on its exclusion of some Americans.
For instance, the initial round of stimulus payments provided $500 for each child under the age of 17 — that meant millions of high school seniors and juniors who are 17 or older didn’t qualify for the payments. The Trump administration is facing lawsuits over the bill’s exclusion of some immigrants and their American spouses from the payments.
Overall, most Americans would get more money in a second stimulus under the HEROES Act, according to the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. Its analysis found that the average household would receive $2,170, compared with $1,729 for the first stimulus checks.
The reason for the sweetened payments: An increase in the number and size of payments for children and dependents, many of whom were excluded from the first round of stimulus payments. Here’s who would be eligible for a stimulus check under the HEROES Act:
Low- and middle-income households
HEROES sets the same income limits to get a check as the CARES Act. That means most high-income households wouldn’t see a payment unless they have children or dependents who qualify for one. Single taxpayers with maximum adjusted gross income of $75,000 would be eligible for a second stimulus check, along with married couples with total household income of no more than $150,000 and who file their taxes jointly.
Above that limit, the payment would be reduced until phasing out completely above $98,000 for single taxpayers and $199,000 for married taxpayers.
Children, including 17- and 18-year-olds
Parents of older teens may be happy to learn that the HEROES Act directs additional payments of $1,200 for each child in the family, up to three children.
The first stimulus check was less generous when it came to providing support for families with children. Under CARES, eligible families got $500 for each child, but only for kids who hadn’t yet turned 17. That’s because the bill relied on the definition of a qualifying child for the Child Tax Credit, which cuts off once he or she turns 17.
College students who are claimed as dependents on their parents’ taxes would qualify for a $1,200 payment under the HEROES Act.
That’s more generous than the first stimulus round, which excluded adults claimed as dependents on other taxpayers’ returns. That included many college students who may be adults in the eyes of the law, but who are still claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns.
That angered many families, who pointed out that numerous college kids suffered lost income and higher costs — such as moving quickly off campus when universities shut down — due to the pandemic.
Americans married to immigrants
Unlike under CARES, the HEROES Act would provide a stimulus check to American citizens who are married to immigrants without a Social Security number.
In the first round, they were blocked from receiving the payments, an issue that sparked at least two lawsuits on grounds of discrimination. That’s because CARES required both spouses to have Social Security numbers, while critics noted that immigrants without a Green Card often use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to file taxes.
On top of that, because HEROES directs payments to tax filers with a valid tax ID number, rather than a Social Security number, more resident aliens may qualify for the payments, according to the American Enterprise Institute.
Who wouldn’t get payments?
Wealthier Americans — unless they have children or dependents who qualify for a $1,200 payment — would be excluded. Like the first stimulus round, the cutoff would be $98,000 for single taxpayers and $199,000 for married couples.
HEROES also caps at three the number of payments that each family can claim for children or dependents. That means families with four or more children will receive payments for three kids, but not for any additional children.