For the past two months, the U.S. economy has been put through the wringer like never before. The spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), of which there are around 1.2 million cases confirmed in the U.S. (that's a third of the global total), wound up bringing nonessential business activity to a halt across the country throughout most of April, and its led to the loss of more than 30 million jobs. It's quite possible that we could see a second-quarter contraction in gross domestic product that exceeds 30%, according to Wall Street estimates.
Knowing full-well what sort of economic disruption would be caused by necessary mitigation measures, Congress passed and President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law on March 27. The third of what's now been four bills passed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is the largest stimulus package in history at a price tag of $2.2 trillion.
While most of the funds apportioned to the CARES Act wound up going to distressed industries, small businesses, hospitals, and the temporary expansion of the unemployment program, the aspect of the bill that really has the attention of the American public is the $300 billion set aside for direct stimulus payments.
Have you qualified for a stimulus check?
As laid out by the CARES Act, the maximum any single individual can receive is $1,200, with married couples filing jointly eligible for a maximum payout of $2,400. Qualifying children under the age of 17 are also able to add $500 per child to a parent's or household's stimulus check.
To determine whether you'll receive an Economic Impact Payment, as these stimulus payouts are officially called, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is primarily leaning on three factors: adjusted gross income (AGI), filing status, and citizenship.
The IRS will being using your most recent tax filing (either 2018 or 2019) determine your eligibility based on AGI. The aforementioned maximum payouts will go to single, married, and head-of-household filers with less than $75,000, $150,000, and $112,500 in respective AGI. Meanwhile, single, married, and head-of-household filers with more than $99,000, $198,000, and $136,500, respectively, won't be eligible for a dime in stimulus money. Those whose AGI falls in between these upper and lower bounds will see a reduced payout to the tune of $5 in stimulus money removed for every $100 in AGI above the lower bound.
Other disqualifying factors include not being a citizen with a legal pathway to citizenship, as well as being labeled a dependent aged 17 and older. This last part means that college-age dependents and senior dependents aren't eligible to receive an Economic Impact Payment.
Here's the average stimulus payment, thus far
All told, some 175 million Americans are expected to receive stimulus money, with an update from the IRS on April 28 showing that 89.49 million Americans had already received $160.4 billion. With the simple help of a calculator, this means the average stimulus payout, thus far, is $1,792.40.
As you might imagine, payouts vary considerably by state. With income being the biggest differentiating factor, states with higher median household incomes are more likely to see their payouts reduced. Conversely, states where median household income is below the national average have a greater likelihood of seeing a higher-than-average payout.
For example, 778,710 residents in Arkansas had received $1,484,876,413 in stimulus money, as of April 28. This works out to an average payout of $1,906.84 per recipient, or $114 higher than the national average. Arkansas ranks No. 48 out of 50 in terms of median household income ($45,726), making it less likely that taxpayers and families will be penalized for earning too much money.
On the other side of the aisle, 1,774,172 residents of Massachusetts have received an Economic Impact Payment, but the average is only $1,663.51 per recipient. Massachusetts has the fourth-highest median household income in the country at $77,378, making it much likelier that a reduced payout is possible.
It's also possible that states with a greater number of children per family could receive a larger average stimulus check. It's a bit too early to make any conclusive judgments on if this is happening, but New Mexico, which has one of the highest children per family rates in the U.S., is averaging around $1,799 per recipient, while Massachusetts has one of the lowest children per family averages in the country.
Haven't received your check yet? You're not alone
The big question on the minds of anywhere between 50 million and 80 million Americans right about now is probably, "where's my stimulus money?" While the CARES Act means well, the distribution of funds following its passage hasn't exactly been swift, and there are a lot of people still wondering where their checks or direct deposits are.
For seniors receiving Social Security, Social Security Disability, Survivor benefits, Supplemental Security Income, and Veterans Affairs benefits, your payouts recently began going out. While most folks should receive their Economic Impact Payments the same way they receive their monthly government benefits, it's possible the IRS may have mailed your check. That can mean an up to 14-day longer wait.
Additionally, for the millions of Americans who haven't gone to the IRS's online tool and updated their bank account information, a paper check may await. The IRS is beginning the process of mailing out paper checks with the lowest-income Americans (sub-$10,000 in AGI) and working their way up in $10,000 increments with each passing week. This means couples filing jointly who earned between $190,000 and $198,000 in AGI may not see their payments until September.
Then again, there are numerous other reasons your check could be delayed. For instance, if you've used a tax-preparation service in recent years, that service may have established a temporary bank account for your refund. Once your refund hits this account, it allows the tax-prep service to remove any fees and interest before sending your refund to your bank account. It's possible your stimulus money wound up in a temporary account. This happened to approximately 20 million people when stimulus checks were mailed out in 2008.
It's also possible you switched banks, and the IRS has the wrong bank account on file. This'll result in a direct deposit payout bouncing back and the agency eventually having to issue a check by snail mail.
There are a lot of reasons your payout can be delayed, so make sure you update your bank account information with the IRS to potentially minimize the time it takes to receive your stimulus money.