The proliferation of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has dramatically changed our societal habits in a very short period of time. Ideas that two months seemed incomprehensible, such as shutting down nonessential businesses throughout much of the country, are now a reality, and more than 26 million people who had jobs as recently as five weeks ago now sit unemployed. It's a truly unprecedented event.
But unprecedented events often yield unparalleled action. That's why, on March 27, Congress passed and President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law. The $2.2 trillion CARES Act is the largest stimulus bill ever passed by lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and it's a direct response to the historic labor market and economic disruption caused by the coronavirus.
Up to 175 million Americans may get an Economic Impact Payment
The CARES Act had a number of goals when passed. It was to:
- Provide roughly $500 billion in loans to distressed industries.
- Offer around $350 billion in small business loans (which was exhausted in two weeks).
- Use $260 billion to bolster the unemployment benefits program.
- Set aside $100 billion for hospitals battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the most eye-catching component of the CARES Act was the approximately $300 billion earmarked for direct payments to working Americans and seniors receiving Social Security. These payouts, officially known as Economic Impact Payments, have begun making their way to households via direct deposit, and will continue to do so via paper check for another roughly 20 weeks. The maximum any single taxpayer can receive is $1,200, with married couples filing jointly eligible for a payout of up to $2,400. Qualifying children ages 16 and under can also add $500 (per child) to a household's Economic Impact Payment.
In total, 175 million combined working Americans and Social Security beneficiaries are expected to receive an Economic Impact Payment. But at the time same, tens of millions of people will receive absolutely nothing. The three eligibility factors for stimulus checks -- adjusted gross income (AGI), filing status, and citizenship -- are the near-universal determining factors for folks as to whether or not they'll receive a payout.
In order to receive the maximum stimulus check, single, married filing jointly, and head-of-household filers needed to have respective AGI's below $75,000, $150,000 and $112,500 in their most recent tax filing (either 2018 or 2019). At the other end of the spectrum, single, married, and head-of-household filers with AGI's above $99,000, $198,000, and $136,500, respectively, won't receive an Economic Impact Payment since they earned too much. Taxpayers who fall in between these two AGI boundaries will see $5 in payout removed for every $100 in AGI above the lower bound.
Other exclusion include dependents aged 17 and older (yes, this includes senior citizens who are claimed as dependents), as well as non-citizens without a Social Security number who have no legal pathway to citizenship. People in arrears on child support can also see their stimulus money seized by the Treasury Department.
Stimulus money will go the furthest in these 10 states
But it's not just how much stimulus money your household is going to receive that matters -- it's how far this payout will go. And depending on where you live, Economic Impact Payments can go a lot further in some states than others.
Recently, home-sales insight website Ownerly.com analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data to determine what the average family in each state would receive in stimulus money, as well as utilized monthly expense data from Zillow (median rental prices) and Doxo.com (monthly bill payment data) to determine which states would allow stimulus payouts to stretch the furthest. Based on Ownerly's findings, families in the following 10 states should be able to get the most out of their Economic Impact Payments (dollar figure represents a state's average monthly rent plus bills cost):
- South Dakota: $1,384
- Arkansas: $1,398
- Oklahoma: $1,437
- West Virginia: $1,483
- Iowa: $1,484
- Mississippi: $1,491
- Missouri: $1,493
- Kentucky: $1,517
- Kansas: $1,523
- Nebraska: $1,529
There are both positive and negative takeaways from these findings.
In the positive column, the average married couple receiving $2,400 (i.e., with less than $150,000 in AGI) should have anywhere from 1.5 months to 1.7 months of their expenses covered by their stimulus check in these 10 states. In Mississippi, the state with the highest average stimulus check per family ($2,659), the typical family should receive enough money to cover almost 1.8 months of expenses.
On the downside, single filers without any qualifying children who receive a $1,200 payout can't even cover their expenses for one month in the states with the cheapest cost-of-living.
The same could be said for all stimulus recipients in states like California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts, where the combined monthly cost of rent and bills ranges between $2,800 in Massachusetts and $3,116 in California. The average family in these states would struggle to cover one month of expenses, even with an extra $500 per qualifying child.
Although stimulus money is being divvied out based on your income, filing status, and citizenship, where you live will play a big role in determining how long your Economic Impact Payments lasts.