Bad news: Not everyone will qualify for the second stimulus check, even if they got the first one

Laveta Brigham

Will you get another stimulus check if one’s approved? Not everyone will. Sarah Tew/CNET Will you get a second stimulus check? The IRS and US Treasury are already calculating how much of the $600 stimulus money your family could get — that’s right, the raise to $2,000 isn’t going to […]


Will you get another stimulus check if one’s approved? Not everyone will.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Will you get a second stimulus check? The IRS and US Treasury are already calculating how much of the $600 stimulus money your family could get — that’s right, the raise to $2,000 isn’t going to happen this time around. In fact, the first wave of second stimulus checks has already started for payments made through direct deposit, physical paper checks and EIP cards. (Here’s how to track your stimulus payment in the mail.)

But although the second stimulus check qualifications have remained mostly the same, and in some cases, have even expanded to include more people, there are still some who won’t meet the requirements for a second stimulus payment. In some cases, that comes down to simply math (yes, we’ll explain). In others, the issue may be something else completely. 

We’ll go over what could disqualify you from being eligible for a second stimulus check, and how certain rules have changed. While you’re here, make sure you know your stimulus check rights and what’s happening with a possible third stimulus check for 2021. This story has been updated with new information.

That $600 per person maximum could work against you

Some things changed with the second stimulus check that President Donald Trump signed Dec. 27. The per-person total is one of them, including a $600 maximum for each adult (down from $1,200 per person in the first stimulus check), with another $600 per child dependent (up from $500). One thing that did not change is the formula the IRS uses to calculate your stimulus check total

The result of some decently complex stimulus-check math is that fewer people overall will be eligible — and for less money at that. The flipside of that statement is that more people will phase out of qualifying for a stimulus check payment sooner than they would have with a $1,200 per-person check, especially if they don’t have children 16 and under, the designated age for a qualified dependent.

So for example, if you’re a single tax filer (with no qualified child dependents) and your adjusted gross income, or AGI, on your 2019 tax return is between $75,000 and $95,000, you would have received a portion of the first ($1,200 max) stimulus check. But at a maximum of $600 per adult, you would phase out of the second payment once you hit $87,000. Read up more in our second stimulus check calculator and try it for yourself.

To determine your adjusted gross income, locate your 2019 tax statement. You’ll find your AGI on line 8b of the 2019 1040 federal tax form.

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Second stimulus checks: Everything you need to know


Dependents between the ages of 17 and 24: Left out again

When the first round of stimulus checks was sent, millions of young Americans were excluded from receiving either money to contribute to the family check, or a payment of their own. Those who were between the ages of 17 and 24 and who were also claimed as child dependents are in a kind of limbo due to the tax code definition of a child. So if you’re 17 or older, you’re not considered a child under the new plan or the first stimulus check, even if you still live at home.

Although some lawmakers pushed to include dependents of any age, the $900 billion bill has kept the CARES Act definition from March, but increased the amount from $500 to $600 per qualified child.

Note that even if you’re not considered a child by stimulus check definitions, you also may not be deemed an adult who would receive their own stimulus check . Here’s how to determine if you count as an adult or a dependent for stimulus checks.


If you make more than the previous cutoff income, you likely won’t qualify for a second check.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Eligibility rules for people with ‘nonresident alien’ status

If you’re a “nonresident alien,” you would not be eligible for a second stimulus check. The government defines a nonresident alien as someone who “has not passed the green card test or the substantial presence test.” 

Note that you didn’t have to be a US citizen to receive the first stimulus payment. Noncitizens must have a Social Security number and live and work in the US to receive a stimulus check under the CARES Act. The $900 billion stimulus bill would make it possible for families with a noncitizen spouse to qualify for a second stimulus check, even if they themselves are issued a taxpayer identification number (ITIN) by the IRS and not a social security number.

The Democrats’ revised Heroes Act proposal from Oct. 1 wanted to extend stimulus checks to a group of people who aren’t US citizens and pay US taxes, with an IRS-provided ITIN.

‘Nonresident aliens’ with US citizen spouse could now qualify for a second check

The $900 billion stimulus bill allows non-US citizens who have a US citizen spouse to receive a second stimulus check as part of their household, a change from the first payment rules.

With the first check, if you’re married to someone who is considered a nonresident alien, the two of you weren’t able to receive the first stimulus check for yourselves or money for your dependents if you file your taxes jointly — even if the qualifying parent and child are citizens of the US

In order to receive the first stimulus check, you would both need to have a Social Security number or be a member of the US Armed Forces during the tax year. If you filed your taxes separately, the citizen may be eligible for a full or partial stimulus payment. The same went for US citizens who claim their child dependents (as head of household) on a separate tax return from the noncitizen spouse. With the second check, the family could be eligible as long as they met the other requirements. 

Overdue child support? You won’t be automatically disqualified this time

With the first stimulus check, if you owed child support payments by as much as $150, the government gave states the right to garnish the amount you needed to pay. For example, if you owed $2,000, your entire stimulus check would go to your child’s other parent. If you owed $400, that amount would be taken out of your stimulus check.

The rules surrounding the $600 stimulus check would let people in this group hold onto the cash without their check being garnished to pay overdue child support.

The current law wouldn’t block people in jail or prison from getting the second stimulus payment

Originally, people in jail and prison were deemed by the IRS to be eligible to receive a stimulus check, and then they were interpreted as ineligible. But a ruling by a federal judge in California allows inmates to file for the first stimulus payment online by Nov. 21, noting that the CARES Act didn’t explicitly ban this group. 

The IRS has appealed this decision but has sent paperwork to prisons for inmates. Right now, incarcerated people would be entitled to a second stimulus check.


Incarcerated people were originally denied a stimulus payment.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What if a family member died since I filed my 2019 federal tax return?

The IRS “sent almost 1.1 million payments totaling nearly $1.4 billion to deceased individuals,” according to the US Government Accountability Office, before asking for the money back.

If someone has died since the previous tax filing, the IRS guidance with the first check is that families can’t keep the money on their behalf — for example, if the deceased filed taxes jointly with a spouse. An exception may be if you receive your spouse’s Social Security survivor benefits. 

With the second check, if your spouse died in 2020 and your AGI is less than $112,500 a year, you would be eligible for the full $600 amount. (A precedent for this exists. Families were able to keep the stimulus checks from the 2008 economic crisis in the event of a death, according to ProPublica and CNBC.)

If by accident a check is addressed to you and you wouldn’t otherwise qualify, the IRS may expect the family to return the payment, though they may not be legally required to do so. 

If you’re still confused about whether you’ll be eligible for the next stimulus payment, here’s who may qualify for a second stimulus check. Also, you may not get a stimulus check if you move and forget to file a change of address. Plus, here’s when the IRS could send the second check, if approved.

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