Most Americans have already received their first COVID-19 stimulus check and are watching negotiations in Washington closely to see when or if a second one will be on the way. While it's far from certain another payment will be forthcoming, there is some good news for those eagerly awaiting more funds amid the 2020 recession: If it comes, the average size of the second check for eligible taxpayers could be 25.5% higher than the first one.
The average size of the second check could go up by more than $400
Although lawmakers remain divided over the possibility of a second stimulus payment, the U.S. House of Representatives already passed a bill to provide one. It's called the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or the HEROES Act.
The HEROES Act not only provides another COVID-19 check, but it also ups the amount millions of Americans would receive.
In fact, according to the American Enterprise Institute, the average payment for eligible taxpayers under the HEROES Act would be $2,170. By comparison, the average payout Americans already received in their first COVID-19 payment under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was just $1,729. That's more than a 25% increase.
Why would Americans do better the second time around?
To be clear, not every person who receives a second stimulus check would get more money, even though the average check size would increase. The key reason the amount is rising is because the HEROES Act offers more money for dependents than the CARES Act and expands who counts as a dependent.
In the first round of payments, qualifying dependents were worth $500 in stimulus money. Under the HEROES Act, the payment per dependent would jump to $1,200, although the number of dependents would be capped at three per household. That makes the maximum payment amount $6,000 per household under the HEROES Act.
Qualifying dependents for the first payment only included children under the age of 17, while the HEROES Act counts any dependents, including children 17 and over, as well as others such as elderly relatives. As many as 26 million more dependents would be eligible for stimulus funds on payment No. 2, so it's not surprising the average check size would go up.
Who doesn't get extra money under the HEROES Act?
People without dependents, unfortunately, would get the same amount in their second stimulus check as they did in the first one. This includes millions of retirees receiving Social Security benefits who don't have children they're caring for.
The HEROES Act also kept the same income limits as the CARES Act, so payments begin to phase out by $5 per each $100 over $75,000 for single filers, $112,500 for married couples, and $150,000 for heads of household. Those who make too much money to qualify for a payment wouldn't be helped by the second check at all.
Will you see these higher checks any time soon?
Although Republican senators aren't on board with the HEROES Act, there is some bipartisan support for a second stimulus bill. It's possible that compromise legislation could broaden the definition of dependent and include more money for dependents, especially as the first payments were too small to provide meaningful help to many American families.
Negotiations remain ongoing, so if you support higher checks for those who are struggling, it's a good idea to contact your representatives and let them know ASAP. And since it's not yet certain whether you'll get any additional stimulus funds, much less a larger check, be certain you use your first one wisely if it hasn't already been spent.