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Confused About Your Stimulus Check? Here's What You Need to Know

By Maurie Backman - Apr 3, 2020 at 8:02AM

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There could be up to $1,200 coming your way (or not).

Ever since COVID-19 took hold in the U.S., it's been wreaking havoc on the economy, so much so that fears of a full-fledged recession continue to circulate. It's also forced millions of Americans into unemployment while leaving countless small businesses at risk of never reopening.

But there's help on the horizon in the form of a $2 trillion economic stimulus package that was approved in late March. Not only does this plan include provisions for small businesses, but it also includes a $1,200 stimulus payment for all eligible U.S. adults.

Still, many Americans are confused about the stimulus plan, and in a recent FinanceBuzz survey, 55% said they have no idea how much money to expect from it. If you feel like you're in the dark about your stimulus payment, here are a few things you need to know.

Man counting hundred-dollar bills

Image source: Getty Images.

1. There are income limits that dictate eligibility

Stimulus payments are worth up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per qualifying child in your household. To see if you're eligible for a stimulus payment, consult this table:

If Your Tax-Filing Status Is:

The Income Threshold for a Full Stimulus Payment Is:

The Income Threshold for a Partial Stimulus Payment Is:



Under $99,000

Head of household


Under $136,500

Married filing jointly


Under $198,000

Data source: CNBC.

Here's what this means: If you're single with no children and earn up to $75,000, you'll get a full $1,200. If you're single with no children and earn more than $75,000, but less than $99,000, you'll get some amount of money, but it may not be the full $1,200. The stimulus payment is reduced by $5 for each $100 that your income exceeds the first threshold, so using this example, if your income is $80,000, your stimulus would be reduced by $250, leaving you with $950.

Also, as a point of clarification, when we say "income thresholds," we're talking about your adjusted gross income, or AGI, as reported on either your 2018 or 2019 tax return. If you haven't yet submitted your 2019 taxes, your 2018 AGI will be used to determine your stimulus eligibility.

2. You don't necessarily need to apply for your stimulus payment

If the IRS has your bank account information on file, you don't need to do anything to get your stimulus payment; it will land in the account you used to have your most recent tax refund deposited directly. If you didn't provide bank account details to the IRS, you'll be directed to a website where you can input that information once the government has one up and running.

3. You can collect a stimulus payment if you're on Social Security

Being on Social Security won't impede your ability to get a stimulus payment. That said, if your Social Security benefits, coupled with other streams of income, push your AGI above the aforementioned thresholds, then you may not be eligible. If you're a senior who didn't file a tax return for 2018 or 2019, your eligibility will be based on your annual Social Security benefits statement.

We still don't know how soon stimulus payments will hit Americans' bank accounts, but it's conceivable that they could arrive sometime in April. And that's a little something to look forward to during an otherwise trying time.

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