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Fourth stimulus check update: Possible timeline and amount

Small change lying on top of a government check.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A fourth stimulus check, if passed, would send another round of relief payments to eligible Americans. More stimulus checks have already been proposed, even while the third stimulus check is still being sent out.  

During his address to Congress last week, Biden said that more than 85% of Americans have received their $1,400 stimulus check, but did not mention a fourth stimulus check.

"We've already sent more than 160 million checks out the door. It's making a difference," said President Biden. "You all know it when you go home. For many people, it's making all the difference in the world."

So as it stands, there's no legislation supporting a fourth stimulus check. There aren't specific stimulus check guidelines on the table. The most noteworthy economic effort in government currently is President Biden's $2.25 trillion infrastructure investment proposal.

The infrastructure bill doesn't mention a fourth stimulus check or direct payments similar to those millions have received over the course of the pandemic. Rather, it's a long-term initiative to rescue, recover and rebuild the country's financial standing. 

The President's American Families Plan, which is separate from the American Jobs Plan, will seek to send stimulus payments of sorts to low-earning people with kids. Biden proposed extending the child tax credit — where families will receive a tax credit of $3,600 for children under six, and $3,000 per child over that age — through 2025, up to 12 weeks of paid 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 initially questioned the need for a second and third stimulus check too. 

The third stimulus check is still going out, so 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 equalled $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.

Every check allowed people who make up to $75,000 a year, according to their most recent tax returns, to qualify for the entire payment. Couples filing jointly got the full payment if they have 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 earn more than $80,000 per year or $160,000 per year as joint filers get nothing. Our guide to the stimulus check calculator can show you what your own eligibility looks like.

Fourth stimulus check 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 will arrive. We can't say whether more relief money is coming, at all.

That said, the third stimulus check timeline happened rather quickly. It only took a few weeks for Congress to debate President Biden's American Rescue Plan. Once the President signed the bill, $1,400 checks were put in motion.

The IRS can begin sending out 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.

Are $2,000 monthly stimulus checks possible?

In response to President Biden's $2.25 trillion proposal, a group of 21 Senators sent a letter urging the inclusion of stimulus checks in the next bout of relief legislation. The group is calling for recurring payments, meaning people would get monthly checks from the government. 

“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 consists of Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Bernie Sanders and others.

An earlier stimulus check proposal suggested $2,000 monthly payments until the pandemic is over. Representative Ilhan Omar tweeted that she wants to see $2,000 per month in late January.

If this amount sounds familiar, it's because now-Vice President Kamala Harris threw her support behind $2,000 recurring checks during second stimulus check negotiations last summer. 

Plus-up payments

While a fourth stimulus check is not 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

Will there be a fourth stimulus check?

The White House hasn't responded to the renewed support for stimulus checks, and the general sentiment is that a fourth stimulus check isn't likely. Economists have suggested we're moving past the pandemic's worst financial woes, although similar things were said ahead of the second stimulus check getting passed.

However, employment numbers are on the rise — the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an increase of 916,000 jobs in March — as are the numbers of vaccinated individuals, two statistics that weren't so rosy at the time of the second stimulus package. 

There is now a general feeling among some that stimulus checks have already done their job of helping to boost the US economy. As Nancy Pelosi tweeted yesterday, "our economy is turning a corner."

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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."

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. Our country's virus case counts have more or less plateaued in the last two months. While there are fewer infections now than there were over the holidays, case counts are still much higher than they were over the summer, when a second stimulus check was still on the table.

There are still some 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 simuls 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 last month. 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 effect the amout you are due or have received. If you are missing any funds, then make sure to claim them by filing a federal tax return before the deadline of May 17. 

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, an organization that advocates for guaranteed income, 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. 

During that period, up to 8 million people fell into poverty, according to CNBC.

In addition, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 30% of Americans couldn’t cover all of their household expenses in late March. In addition, about 15% of renters have fallen behind on their rent. 

However, their have been positive signs for the economy that could make a fourth stimulus check less likely. The U.S. added 916,000 jobs in March as hiring improved as the unemployment rate declined to 6%.