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Fourth stimulus check: Could it actually happen?

TK
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Now that the third stimulus checks have arrived in most Americans' mailboxes and bank accounts, attention is turning to what may come next and whether additional rounds of relief are in our future. 

Some progressive Democrats have floated the idea of monthly stimulus payments, there have been no concrete proposals for a fourth stimulus check. Proposals for further direct payments to most Americans would likely face an uphill battle among lawmakers wary of spending more money. 

More than 50 progressive House Democrats sent a letter to the Biden administration in January in support of adding recurring direct payments to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, though they did not specify how much those payments would be or who would qualify. 

That bill, which President Joe Biden signed in March, provided the one-time $1,400 payments that are currently being distributed, but it did not include the progressives' recurring-check proposal.

Senate Democrats jumped on board with a similar proposal in late March. A group of 21 senators, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) urged Biden to include recurring stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment benefits in the administration's upcoming package of recovery bills, known as the Build Back Better plan. 

"This crisis is far from over, and families deserve certainty that they can put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads," the senators wrote.

This proposal didn't suggest who should get the money or how big the payments would be. The letter also said direct payments should be "tied to economic conditions," implying that the need may disappear with a quickly recovering economy.

The chances of a fourth stimulus check are slim

Biden could attempt to include recurring direct payments in upcoming infrastructure legislation, although there's been no response from the White House to the senators' letter.

According to the New York Times, the president is already considering making permanent the monthly child tax credit introduced in the American Rescue Plan Act, which sends money to parents below or near the poverty line, and extending other short-term tax cuts aimed at reducing poverty. However, he hasn't proposed a fourth stimulus check. 

Plus, economists have suggested we are pulling out of the deepest elements of crisis. While some are suggesting the possibility of additional economic relief, more stimulus money for individuals and families is unlikely to be a priority. 

Biden's $1.9 trillion package is "gonna be the last on that front," Deutsche Bank senior U.S. economist Brett Ryan told Fortune. "No more checks."

The bottom line: a fourth stimulus check for everyone in the middle class — or indeed any type of ongoing payments besides child-tax credits and unemployment benefits — seems unlikely to garner the necessary support to pass the Senate and be signed into law. 

Still waiting on your third payment? 

If you haven't received your stimulus check, head over to the IRS Get My Payment tool to estimate when it might arrive. 

The IRS has reported that taxpayers whose direct-deposit information is already on file should have seen their payments hit their bank accounts by March 24. Those who are waiting on paper checks and debit cards will likely receive their funds in the coming weeks.