Skip to main content

Fourth stimulus check: Are more payments coming?

Fourth stimulus check update: Possible amount, eligibility and everything else we know
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A fourth stimulus check from the government could take one of two forms: monthly checks in fairly small amounts, or one-time payments of up to $2,000. 

Both options have been put forward by legislators in Congress as follow-ups to the third round of pandemic relief payments, which were made possible by the American Rescue Plan Act of March 2021.

The U.S. economy is still recovering, with slow but steady job growth even as unemployment numbers hold steady and the Delta variant of COVID-19 causes hospitalization rates to soar. 

The federal moratorium on evictions ended Aug. 26 with a Supreme Court ruling, and millions now face losing their homes. Inflation, however, appears to be on the rise, contributing to fears among economists and lawmakers that further stimulus payments could only fuel more price hikes.

As a result, there's no legislation in Congress that's likely to pass that would create a fourth round of stimulus payments, even though some Democratic lawmakers have called on President Joe Biden to consider recurring payments. 

The White House has passed back the buck, stating that the president would consider whatever Congress comes up with.

At the end of July, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), introduced a bill that would send $1,200 to each American making less than $75,000 per year, forever. But it has not moved forward in the House of Representatives and has little chance of passing.

In May, seven Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee sent a letter to President Biden requesting that the administration add a fourth and even a fifth stimulus check to the American Families Plan announced earlier this spring.

The White House has said little about a fourth stimulus check. In a press conference in June, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, "The president is certainly open to a range of ideas," when asked about the lawmakers pushing President Biden for more stimulus checks. But that doesn't mean a fourth stimulus check is happening. 

"We'll see what members of Congress propose," Psaki added, "but those [stimulus checks] are not free." 

The most noteworthy economic effort in current legislation is President Biden's $2.25 trillion infrastructure investment proposal, the American Jobs Plan. 

That proposal doesn't include a fourth stimulus check or anything like the direct payments that millions of people received over the course of the pandemic. Rather, it's a long-term initiative to rescue, recover and rebuild the country's financial standing. 

Fourth stimulus check update

Biden's American Rescue Plan Act, which created the third stimulus checks, did boost tax credits for most parents with children under 18, but only for the year 2021. Most parents and legal guardians will receive a tax credit of $3,600 for children under six, and $3,000 per child aged six through 17. 

Half of that credit is coming in the form of monthly advance payments to parents beginning July 15 — $300 per month for younger kids, and $250 for older ones. That's similar to the monthly recurring checks that some legislators have called for.

The same law also retroactively exempted a large chunk of unemployment benefits paid out in 2020 from federal income tax. People who collected unemployment in 2020 and paid tax on it are getting thousands of dollars in tax-refund checks.

The American Rescue Plan Act also offers tax credits that cover all or most of the cost of a "Silver" health-insurance plan for six months under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. You're eligible for this if you filed for unemployment benefits at any time in 2021, and if you don't currently get health insurance through Medicare, Medicaid or someone else's health plan.

Biden's American Families Plan, which is separate from the American Jobs Plan, will seek to extend those tax credits, including the advance payments, through the end of 2025.

The American Families Plan would also mandate up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave and subsidies for childcare.

That's not to say another widespread stimulus check can't be written into the next major economic initiative. Although the consensus is that a fourth stimulus check isn't likely, many lawmakers and economists initially questioned the need for a second and third stimulus check too. 

Meanwhile, some people haven't received their third stimulus check due to a “programming error,” detailed in a new Fast Company report. The IRS has admitted instances of payment delays, but hasn't provided specific language on why certain taxpayers are facing issues with their payment.

Be sure to check your stimulus check status or call the IRS stimulus check phone number with questions regarding your payment. Read on for everything there is to know about the possibility of another round of payments.

Fourth stimulus check amount

The fourth stimulus check amount depends on several factors. If passed, it would probably look similar to the previous checks, although that's not guaranteed.

For reference, the first stimulus check amounted to as much as $1,200, while the second stimulus check brought $600 to eligible Americans. The third stimulus check, which the IRS is still in the process of distributing, is worth up to $1,400 per person, although the eligibility requirements are narrower.

All three checks gave the full amounts to taxpayers who made up to $75,000 a year, according to their most recent tax returns. Couples filing jointly got the full payment if they had a joint total income of $150,000 or less. 

With the first two checks, those making up to $99,000 alone or $198,000 as a couple received prorated payments. With the third check, individuals who earned more than $80,000 per year or $160,000 per year as joint filers got nothing. Our guide to the stimulus check calculator can show you what your own eligibility looks like.

Fourth stimulus check possible timeline

Right now, there is no fourth stimulus check timeline or fourth stimulus check release date. Until legislation is in motion, we can't say how soon more relief money might arrive. We can't say whether more relief money is coming, at all.

That said, the third stimulus check timeline happened rather quickly following Biden's inauguration Jan. 20. It only took a few weeks for Congress to debate his American Rescue Plan. Once the president signed the bill on March 11, $1,400 checks were put in motion.

The IRS can begin sending out possible fourth stimulus checks in the same manner it sent the previous stimulus payments. Since the framework is already in place, Americans could begin receiving the fourth stimulus checks about two weeks after a relief bill allowing another round of direct payments is approved.

Stimulus check scams and hoaxes

Of course, popular demand for widely distributed stimulus payments, and the confusing political maneuvering that goes into crafting stimulus bills, creates an information gap that's easily exploited by scammers.

Even with the first wave of stimulus checks in 2020, we saw bogus email messages that pretended to be from the IRS, promising "an important update on your Covid relief fund." But they just took you to phishing sites that wanted your Social Security number and other sensitive bits of information. 

Following the second stimulus bill at the beginning of 2021, those email phishing attempts were joined by scam phone calls demanding your personal details so that you could be "cleared" to receive more stimulus checks.

In March, as President Biden's American Rescue Plan was making its way through Congress, new phishing emails promised the moon: a $4,000 stimulus check, a boost in the minimum wage, free meals and, best of all, priority treatment that let you skip lines at COVID-19 vaccination sites.

Most recently, cruel pranksters have been passing around posts on Facebook that a fourth stimulus check worth $2,500 is coming by the end of July. Don't believe it, and don't believe the phishing websites that claim to register you for child-tax-credit advance payments. 

In fact, most parents and legal guardians don't need to do anything to get the payments — they'll just show up in your mailbox or bank account.

Are $2,000 monthly stimulus checks possible?

In response to President Biden's American Jobs Plan proposal, a group of 21 senators on March 30 sent a letter urging the inclusion of stimulus checks in the legislation. The group called for recurring payments as long as the pandemic lockdown continued, meaning people would get monthly checks from the government. No amount for the payments was specified.

“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,” wrote the group, which consisted of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, and others.

An earlier stimulus check proposal, put forward during the early days of the American Rescue Plan in late January, also suggested monthly payments until the pandemic is over, but did not mention an amount. However, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, tweeted earlier in January that she wanted to see $2,000 per month.

If that amount sounds familiar, it's because now-Vice President Kamala Harris threw her support behind $2,000 recurring checks during the negotiations for the second stimulus check legislation in the summer of 2020. 

The proposal has also gained plenty of support outside of Congress: Six online petitions calling for $2,000 monthly stimulus checks until the end of the pandemic have been posted. The biggest petition, on Change.org, has been signed by more than 2.8 million people and has a stated goal of reaching 3 million. 

Plus-up payments

While a fourth stimulus check does not seem likely for now, in the meantime the IRS has released information about plus-up payments and Recovery Rebate Credits, two ways to get additional money from the three stimulus bills passed since the COVID-19 pandemic began. 

Both the plus-up payment and the Recovery Rebate Credit might get you more stimulus money, depending on your 2020 tax return. The plus-up payments, detailed in an IRS news release April 1, are supplements to the third stimulus check. 

If you qualify for a plus-up payment, you will receive an extra check as part of the weekly rounds of stimulus payments that the IRS has been making every Wednesday.

The Recovery Rebate Credit, as explained in an IRS news release April 5, is a tax credit related to the first ($1,200) and second ($600) stimulus checks. If you qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit, your 2020 taxes will be reduced and you may receive the credit as part of a tax refund. 

Both the plus-up payment and the rebate credit will be determined by your 2020 tax return. But while the plus-up payment will come to you automatically once your return is processed by the IRS, the rebate credit is something you have to claim on your 2020 return. We have more info on both the plus-up payment and Recovery Rebate Credit

Fourth stimulus check approval: Here's what it'll take

The White House hasn't responded to any of the proposals for additional stimulus checks, and the general sentiment is that a fourth stimulus check isn't likely. Economists have suggested we've already moved past the pandemic's worst financial woes, although there are signs that Americans could still use relief.

Experts certainly seem in agreement that there won't be a fourth stimulus check. The latest stimulus package, the American Rescue Plan, is "gonna be the last on that front," Deutsche Bank senior U.S. economist Brett Ryan told Fortune. "No more checks."

Ed Mills, Washington policy analyst at Raymond James, agreed, telling CNBC recently "I think it’s unlikely at this time. D.C. has largely started to pivot towards the recovery and an infrastructure bill."

Many economists and financial experts are worried that the third stimulus checks have contributed to a growing inflation rate. In June 2021, the core inflation rate, stripped of energy and food prices, rose 4.5% at an annual rate vs. the Dow Jones estimate of 3.8%. The overall consumer price index rose at an annualized 5.4% rate in June.

Are we getting another stimulus check in 2021?

Whether we get another stimulus check in 2021 depends on how much momentum the proposals for more checks gain. 

There are still some people who've not yet received the third stimulus check, but we've got a handy guide for what to do if you're missing your stimulus check payment. It's worth checking if you're eligible for most recent stimulus check as it's worth up to $1,400 per person. 

The IRS has reported that taxpayers whose direct-deposit information is on file should have seen their payments reach their bank accounts in April. Those who are waiting on paper checks and debit cards can expect to receive their funds in the coming weeks. 

If you have received the third stimulus check and feel it's too low, then take a look at our guide to the stimulus check calculator as that can show you what your own eligibility looks like. Keep in mind that there are a few factors that will affect the amount you are due or have received.

Do people need a fourth stimulus check?

According to CNBC, there is a case for a fourth stimulus check that goes beyond the calls from lawmakers. The Economic Security Project, a progressive organization that advocates for guaranteed income no matter what the state of the economy, says there's a need for more stimulus checks.

“We need at least one more check,” said Adam Ruben. 

Ruben, the campaign director at the Economic Security Project, also said that stimulus checks should be "automatic," and not stalled as they were last summer when second stimulus check negotiations caused a long gap between the $1,200 and $600 payments. 

There are signs of recovery, though. The June jobs report showed a gain of 850,000, which was better than expected, according to The New York Times. That's the strongest one-month gain since last summer.

Likewise, the Commerce Department said that gross domestic product had grown at an annualized rate of 6.5% for April through June of 2021, surpassing the figure it had reached before the pandemic, the Washington Post reported. However, that was less than the 8% GDP growth some economists had forecast.

Regardless, certain lawmakers are pushing for relief. 

“This unprecedented moment demands an unprecedented response. People don’t only need relief, they need stability, certainty, and predictability and the ABC Act delivers them exactly that," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington). 

"Our legislation acknowledges that a one-time survival check isn’t enough to get people through this crisis. Instead, we send out recurring checks every month during the crisis and for a year after it ends. That is money in people’s pockets, and certainty in their lives.”

However, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, didn't appear to agree. 

In an interview, McConnell told 44News of Evansville, Indiana, "This economy is poised to boom. I can't imagine the economy is going to need a fourth round."

California stimulus check

While the possibility of a fourth stimulus check from Congress is not very high, Californians are seeing a fourth stimulus check. As part of Governor Gavin Newsom's $100 billion "California Comeback Plan," the governor is sending $600 checks to those earning less than $75,000, with an additional $500 per child.

Newsom said this represents nearly 11 million California residents, approximately 78% of the state.

Vaccination impact

With the numbers of Americans receiving the Covid-19 vaccine stalled, and numbers of coronavirus cases rising since July, life has returned to a semblance of normality only in some places, not nationwide. 

The Delta variant of Covid has spread quickly, and caused the CDC to change its mask guidance. Now even those who are vaccinated are being told to wear masks indoors in areas of substantial or high transmission. 

Various companies are also requiring that employees be vaccinated before they return to offices, including Google, Facebook, Uber and Netflix. And New York City has taken the extraordinary step of requiring patrons to have at least one shot for those wanting to participate in indoor dining, fitness and entertainment activities. 

As of Sept. 1, 74.2% of adults in the U.S. have received at least one vaccination, according to the CDC, while 61.8% of the total population has had one shot and 52.4% is fully vaccinated. Those numbers haven't changed much since Aug. 15, when they were 71.8%, 59.5% and 50.6%, respectively.

Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is a senior writer at Tom’s Guide covering wearables, TVs and everything smart-home related. When she’s not in cyborg mode, you can find her on an exercise bike or channeling her inner celebrity chef. She and her robot army will rule the world one day, but until then, reach her at kate.kozuch@futurenet.com.