Stimulus check amount — and what you get if you don't qualify

A stimulus check overlaid by a dollar bill and a fragment of an American flag.
(Image credit: Rohane Hamilton/Shutterstock)

President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law Thursday (March 11), one day after the House of Representatives passed the bill, which includes the third round of stimulus checks.

“It’s been a major shift,” former congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass) told The Washington Post. “People have gone from being anti-government, to beyond being even neutral on it, to thinking: ‘We need the government; it has to help us.' ”

As early as the end of this week, the third and largest round of stimulus money will begin filtering to individuals, families, businesses, and local governments all across the country. 

The biggest question for many is: How much will I get? Whether or not you’re not getting a direct payment, the stimulus package will affect you, your friends, and your community. Here's what you need to know.

Stimulus check amount and eligibility

While the American Recovery Plan has the most generous allotment for dependents of all three of the COVID stimulus packages, it also, like the previous packages, has income requirements. This calculator will tell you exactly how much you can expect.

The third stimulus check is worth $1,400 for Americans who make $75,000 or less per year. This includes dependents. 

To be eligible for the $1,400, individuals must have an adjusted gross income below $75,000 and married couples must have an AGI under $150,000 to receive $2,800. Note that the payments are based on either your 2019 or 2020 income, depending on when your tax return was filed. 

According to CNN, roughly 90% of American households will be eligible, but the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package has other benefits even if you don't qualify. 

Not getting a stimulus check? What’s in the plan for you

Do a quick search on “stimulus plan,” and the results page bursts with "$1,400." It makes sense — immediately spendable cash, zooming straight from the President’s pen to the checking accounts of about about 90% of Americans, is fairly compelling.

But at $424 billion, those $1,400 individual payments actually comprise less than 25% of the $1.9 trillion plan. Experts agree that economic recovery will take much more than the individual payments. 

Senator Angus King (I-Maine) told NPR on Monday (March 8), "There are really two pieces to this bill. One is directly related to the health crisis, but the other, and the larger piece, is related to the economic crisis that the health crisis has created.”

So what’s going on with the remaining $1.5 trillion? Who exactly is getting rescued, and in what ways are you likely to feel it? No matter who you are, you’re likely to see the effects of the stimulus package. Here are some ways it might affect you.

If you’re unemployed...

The $246 billion allocated for expanded benefits means you’ll get money for longer. 

Expanded unemployment benefits of $300/week, currently due to expire March 14, will be extended through Sept. 6, and a 100% subsidy of COBRA health insurance premiums for laid-off workers new extends through the end of September.

If you enjoy going to bars and restaurants…

You might appreciate the $29 billion going to eateries, helping to keep more of them open through the lean months ahead.

Restaurants and bars took a particularly hard wallop from the social distancing restrictions of the past year. Direct relief to small- and medium-sized bars and restaurants is designed to help them pay rent, payroll expenses, vendor expenses, and more. 

If you have kids in school...

$178 billion is earmarked so that in-person learning can resume.

From elementary education through colleges and universities, funds will go toward upgrading ventilation systems, reducing class sizes, and other measures so that kids and teachers can get safely back in the classrooms. In addition, 20% of the money goes toward “learning loss” — efforts to make up for the ground some students lost by being out of the classroom for a year or more. 

If you’re still waiting for a vaccine…

Things should speed up, with $46 billion to accelerate vaccine distribution.

In addition, the funding going to the Department of Health and Human Services will be used to detect, trace and monitor Covid-19.

If you’re worried about local budget shortfalls…

You’re not alone. The plan includes $350 billion in state, local, and tribal aid.

Split into 60% for states and 40% for localities, this funding is designed to prevent layoffs and service cuts, as well as make up the significant budget shortfalls experienced by a majority of states during the pandemic.

And there’s a lot more. The bill contains money for public transit, rental assistance, low-income families and an expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses. 

No matter who you are or whether you’ll be getting a governmental deposit in your checking account in the next week or two, money from the American Rescue Plan is heading your way. 

Margot Page

Margot Page is an editor and writer covering personal finance based in Seattle, Washington. She led the product management team for both Microsoft Money and MSN Money.