01/08/2021

4th stimulus check: Will there be another payment in 2021?

Americans living paycheck to paycheck could benefit from more direct aid in 2021.


Sarah Tew/CNET

With President Joe Biden and Congress now working out the details of the next two stimulus bills, could Washington agree on a fourth stimulus check by the end of 2021? The IRS continues to send out the third stimulus checks — so far, the agency has sent nearly 167 million payments for $391 billion since the American Rescue Plan was passed. But as that last round of pandemic aid wraps up, some lawmakers are pushing for a fourth payment — either as a one-time check or a recurring payment.

At this point, President Joe Biden has not committed to a fourth check. Some members of Congress are asking the White House to incorporate direct payments to struggling families in the new stimulus proposals, citing widespread support from the public and financial analysts. Others in Washington disagree that additional relief money is necessary. 

We’ll explain what’s going on with additional relief during this ongoing economic recovery. By the way, if you received an IRS letter signed by Biden confirming your third check, you should hold on to it. Meanwhile, here’s how to check on your tax refund and to see if you qualify for the recurring child tax credit payments. This story is updated regularly.

What to know about a potential 4th stimulus payment 

Approved in March, the American Rescue Plan was the Biden administration’s first stimulus package and included $1,400 checks$300 extra in weekly unemployment benefits and an expanded child tax credit running into 2022. 

The White House has put forward two more stimulus bills for 2021: the American Families Plan and the American Jobs Plan. Neither proposal calls for a new stimulus check at this stage. However, Democratic members of the House and Senate have thrown their weight behind a fourth stimulus check, including recurring or monthly payments. In late March, a group of 10 progressive lawmakers, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, asked Biden to include regular stimulus payments (PDF) in his next stimulus package.

“We urge you to include recurring direct payments and automatic unemployment insurance extensions tied to economic conditions in your Build Back Better long-term economic plan,” the statement said. A few weeks later, a group of 21 Democrats made a similar request to Biden.

The most recent pitch for additional stimulus money came on May 17 from several members of the House Ways and Means Committee (PDF). Remarking on increased poverty and spiraling debt among Americans, their letter noted that “most people spent relief checks on monthly expenses or essentials such as food, utilities, rent, and mortgage payments.”


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Everything to know about additional stimulus aid 

The American Rescue Plan contained three types of direct payments to individuals, one of which was the $1,400 stimulus check. It’s possible a future bill could extend or introduce more money through direct payments that go to specific groups of recipients, such as parents who earn below a certain income or people out of work.

The three types of direct payments approved in the American Rescue Plan were:

Stimulus checks: The stimulus payments for up to $1,400 have gone to those who meet the requirements. There’s also money going to certain individuals in the form of “plus-up” payments

Child tax credit: A temporary expansion of the child tax credit for 2021 sends qualifying families up to $3,600 for each child — you can calculate your child tax credit total here. These monthly partial payment checks, which begin in July, will last through the end of the year, with a final payment in 2022. 

Federal unemployment bonus: A weekly $300 unemployment bonus, as well as pandemic unemployment assistance to gig workers and freelancers (the self-employed), was extended to Sept. 6. However, in Maay nearly two dozen state governments have chosen to opt out of the extended benefits, so millions of jobless Americans in those states will be cut off as early as June. 

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Millions of people in the US have seen their wages and benefits slashed as a result of the pandemic. 


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Everything to know about Biden’s proposed American Families Plan

As part of the White House’s economic stimulus strategy, the future American Families Plan could include direct money to individuals and families. 

If it approves recurring payments: The proposal would be the next likely place for Congress to provide more funding in the form of a fourth, or even fifth, stimulus check. 

If it makes the child tax credit raise permanent: Money from the expanded child tax credit is set to start in July, sending periodic payments to lower-income and middle-income families with children. In his speech before Congress, Biden called on the House and Senate to extend the expanded child tax credit to 2025. Others, including Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, also support making the credit permanent, saying it could lift millions of children out of poverty.

If it passes a minimum wage hike: Some senators continue to look for ways to boost the federal minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25 per hour. In his speech before Congress, Biden called on the legislators to raise the minimum wage to $15. Sens. Romney and Kyrsten Sinema have also pitched a wage hike. Some proponents want to set the bar at a $15 hourly wage, but others are looking to go to $11 an hour. A February report from the Brookings Institute models how a $15 minimum wage could help make 37% of US households financially self-sufficient.

If it renews federal unemployment payments beyond September: Along with recurring payments, some lawmakers had originally petitioned for federal unemployment assistance to extend beyond Labor Day this year. However, as dozens of states cut off extended benefits, many Democratic members of Congress are now expressing skepticism about allowing enhanced unemployment relief to continue past the September expiration date, as Politico reported in early May. 

Here’s how to report a problem with your stimulus check, And here’s what we know about the new IRS portals that’ll help you get money with the child tax credit.