Roughly two months ago, the idea of shutting down nonessential businesses as a means of slowing the transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) sounded farfetched. Today, the vast majority of states have enacted stay-at-home orders that have closed nonessential businesses and, in the process, put more than 26 million people out of work in a four-week stretch. It's an unfortunate but necessary evil needed to flatten the COVID-19 transmission curve.
It's this unprecedented disruption to the U.S. economy and labor market that drove Congress to pass, and President Trump to sign, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law on March 27. At $2.2 trillion, the CARES Act is the largest economic stimulus package ever passed by lawmakers.
Who gets a stimulus check?
Although the CARES Act supplies $500 billion to distressed industries, provides close to $350 billion in small business loans (which were spoken for within two weeks), and puts $260 billion to work to expand the unemployment program, it's the $300 billion set aside for direct payouts to the American public that's garnered all the attention.
These payouts, officially known as Economic Impact Payments, have already begun going out to households via direct deposit. It's estimated that 140 million households, and roughly 175 million taxpayers, will qualify for stimulus money. Of course, there are still tens of millions of people who either won't receive the full payout of $1,200 per individual or $2,400 for a married couple filing jointly, or will receive nothing at all.
The eligibility factors for a stimulus check predominantly come down to a person's or couple's adjusted gross income (AGI), tax filing status, and citizenship status.
In order to receive the maximum payout of $1,200 or $2,400, single, married, and head-of-household taxpayers need AGIs of under $75,000, $150,000, and $112,500, respectively. It should be noted that the Internal Revenue Service is determining AGI eligibility based on the most recent tax return on file. Since Tax Day for the 2019 tax year has been extended until July 15, 2020, this means either the 2018 or 2019 tax filing will determine eligibility.
By comparison, single, married, and head-of-household filers with AGIs above $99,000, $198,000, and $136,500, respectively, won't receive a dime as they earned too much. Taxpayers who fall in between this upper bound -- where stimulus money ceases to be paid -- and the lower bound -- where payouts are maximized -- will see their Economic Impact Payment reduced by $5 for every $100 increase in AGI.
Beyond income, dependents aged 16 and under can net their parent(s) an extra $500 per child. On the other hand, dependents 17 and older can't receive a payout and won't help their household with the extra $500 per child. This means college-age dependents and senior dependents won't receive any stimulus money.
Lastly, green-card holders (i.e., immigrants with a legal pathway to citizenship) can qualify for an Economic Impact Payment, while those folks without a Social Security number or pathway to citizenship won't receive a stimulus check.
Families in these states are expected to receive the largest average Economic Impact Payments
However, where you live is also somewhat proving to be a determining factor in the size of stimulus check you'll receive.
Recently, home-sales insight company Ownerly.com released an analysis that examined U.S. Census Bureau data for average family size and number of children in each state, and then compared that data to income distributions within each state. In other words, this was a roundabout way for Ownerly to estimate the average stimulus payout per qualifying family in all 50 states. By its estimate, families in the following five states are in line to receive the largest Economic Impact Payments:
- Mississippi: $2,659
- New Mexico: $2,571
- Louisiana: $2,543
- Alabama: $2,515
- Florida: $2,501
Why these states? The biggest factor likely has to do with median household income. Not including Washington, D.C., Florida, Alabama, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Mississippi, respectively, rank 37th, 44th, 46th, 47th, and 50th out of 50 states in median household income. With the median household generating between $43,567 and $53,267 in these five states, chances are that most families are well below the $150,000 AGI threshold where stimulus phaseouts kick in.
Having a higher number of qualifying children can also boost a household's Economic Impact Payment. In terms of the average number of children per family per state, New Mexico is one of only six states with more than 2.01 children per household, with Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, and Alabama landing between 1.91 and 2 children per household.
It's also noteworthy that, with the exception of Florida, the other four states have some of the lowest costs of living in the United States. Thus, a higher-than-average stimulus paycheck should go further in these states.
Ultimately, everyone's situation is going to be different, and what you do with your stimulus money is truly what matters. But if you live in Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, Alabama, or Florida, your stimulus check just might be higher than the national average stimulus payout.