Personal Finance

Deciding who would be eligible for next $1,200 stimulus checks could change with new legislation

Key Points
  • A second set of direct checks could be sent to Americans if Congress includes further payments in their next stimulus bill.
  • But some lawmakers are voicing concerns that their constituents had trouble receiving the first payments.
  • Meanwhile, other Americans, such as older dependents or those married to non-citizens, weren't eligible for the money.
  • Here's how the government could look to patch those gaps.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell lays out plan for next Covid-19 stimulus bill

All eyes are on Congress to see what they will include in the next coronavirus stimulus bill. That could include a second set of stimulus checks.

Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Tuesday that lawmakers want to send another round of direct payments to Americans. 

For some, that could mean a new chance at the first $1,200 payments.

About 12 million people who were eligible for the first checks are at risk of not receiving them, according to estimates from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan research and policy institute.

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To date, about 160 million payments totaling $270 billion have been sent in "record time," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said at a congressional hearing last week.

But some Americans were excluded from that first set of payments. That included dependents ages 17 and up, including college students and disabled adults. Americans who filed their income taxes jointly with non-citizen spouses were also left out of the money.

Now, efforts are underway to get missing money into the hands of those who should have received checks. Some lawmakers are hoping to use the upcoming legislation to help fill in some of those holes.

Who's still waiting for money

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images

During the House Committee on Small Business hearing last week, several lawmakers pointed out to Mnuchin that their constituents are still waiting for their stimulus checks.

Rep. Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, said her office had heard from 700 people who either didn't get their payments or who did receive them as unlabeled debit cards and didn't realize what they were.

Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., asked if the difficulties people were experiencing in receiving them pointed to a bigger issue or were just one-off problems.

In his response, Mnuchin said the fact that eligible Americans are still waiting is "inexcusable."

"All of these one-offs, I am sympathetic, because these are real people who want their checks," Mnuchin said.

The first thing about stimulus payments is that they should be fixed for immigrant families.
Chuck Marr
director of federal tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

At the same time, he said, efforts are underway to correct the debit card issue. Those payments will be clearly labeled going forward.

While a $7.50 fee to replace the debit cards has been waived, a $17 fee for priority shipping "should be waived as well," Mnuchin said.

Americans who don't typically file tax returns have until Oct. 15 to use a non-filer web tool to get their stimulus checks this year. Those who do not receive their money this year will be eligible to receive the funds when they file their tax returns next year.

Who could become eligible

Other Americans were disappointed to find out they weren't able to receive any stimulus money at all.

Now, some lawmakers are calling for Congress to fill in those eligibility gaps.

During the House Committee on Small Business hearing, Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minn., pointed out to Mnuchin that many dependents — including those age 17 and over, college students and disabled adults — were left out of the payments.

Craig asked Mnuchin whether he would consider including those individuals in the next package and making that retroactive.

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"From a policy standpoint, I understand that issue and I am sympathetic to it," Mnuchin said.

Much of whether that ineligibility to receive the money is reversed is up to Congress. New legislation isn't expected until August.

But lawmakers have already put in proposals indicating they hope to change the terms of the checks.

The HEROES Act, which was passed by House Democrats in May, would make it so immigrants and adult dependents could receive both first and second payments. That legislation calls for another batch of $1,200 checks.

Those changes for immigrants are key, particularly as many of those individuals are working in essential jobs, said Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

"The first thing about stimulus payments is that they should be fixed for immigrant families," Marr said.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., has proposed a bill to allow Americans who are married to non-citizens receive first stimulus checks.

Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., also put forward a proposal to give low-income college students access to the $1,200 payments.