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4th stimulus check? How you could receive another round of money in 2021

Will Washington send one more stimulus check? That's the goal of a petition aimed at Congress. And the goal of some members of Congress, too. Here's what to know about the status of a fourth payment.

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The fate of a fourth stimulus check is to be decided.

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We're not halfway through May, and the IRS has already made 2.7 million third stimulus payments this month for more than $3.8 billion. Although the IRS is not done sending the third round of checks, Congress is under pressure to approve a fourth stimulus payment. More than 2.1 million people have so far signed a petition on Change.org requesting that Congress approve "immediate checks and recurring payments so that we can keep our heads above water." The petition's goal is to receive 3 million online signatures in support of a $2,000 payment for adults and a $1,000 payment for children.

The White House has not committed to a fourth stimulus check, yet, looking to Congress for guidance. "We'll see what members of Congress propose," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said May 4 when asked whether President Joe Biden would back another stimulus check. (Here's how to track your third payment.)

At this stage, a new stimulus check isn't explicitly in either of Biden's new stimulus plans. (That letter you may have received this month from Biden is about the third check, not the fourth.) However, the proposals do contain other ways you could get thousands of dollars in benefits or tax breaks, including $3,600 per kid from the new child tax credit, and up to $16,000 in tax credits for child care expenses like day camp and after-school care. We'll share what we know. Meanwhile, here's how to claim an income tax refund and find out if the IRS owes you money for a previous tax refund. This story was recently updated.

Could a fourth stimulus check become part of Biden's new plans?

The American Rescue Plan approved in March was Biden's first stimulus package, with its $1,400 checks$300 extra in weekly unemployment benefits and an expanded child tax credit running into 2022. (See if you qualify for the recurring child tax credit payments.) 

The Biden administration advocates two sequel stimulus bills for 2021. Neither proposal calls for a new stimulus check at this stage. However, Democratic members of the House and Senate have thrown their weight behind a fourth stimulus check, including recurring or monthly payments. Earlier this spring, a group of 10 progressive lawmakers, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, asked Biden to include regular stimulus payments (PDF) in his next stimulus bill.

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"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," the statement said. A few weeks later, another group of 21 Democrats made a similar request to Biden.

The $1,400 stimulus check also was left out of early proposals for what would become the December 2020 stimulus law, with an agreement to include the $600 stimulus check squeaking through as a late addition.

How the next stimulus 'check' might arrive

The American Rescue Plan contains three types of payments with money going directly to individuals, one of which is the $1,400 stimulus check. It's possible a future bill could extend or introduce more money through direct checks that go to specific groups of recipients, including parents who earn below a certain income or people out of work.

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Here are the three types of direct payments approved in the March 2021 bill:

Stimulus checks: The one-time stimulus payments have been sending up to $1,400 a piece to those who meet the requirements. (Here's what to know about "plus-up" payments for people who may get more money on top of the check they already received.)

Child tax credit: An expansion of the child tax credit for 2021 sends qualifying families up to $3,600 for each child -- you can calculate your child tax credit total here. These periodic checks will last through the end of the year, with a final payment in 2022. 

Federal unemployment bonus: A monthly federal unemployment check is being sent until Sept. 6 at up to $300 a month, in addition to state benefits for unemployed workers.

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Congress has already approved a variety of aid this year.

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Future checks could take these four forms instead

The third leg of Biden's economic stimulus strategy -- called the American Families Plan -- could include more money going out directly to individuals and families. Here's how.

Approve recurring payments: Biden's American Families Plan proposal is the next likely place for Congress to provide more funding. This is where Democratic senators are calling on Biden to push for recurring fourth stimulus checks during the pandemic.

Make the child tax credit raise permanent: Money from the expanded child tax credit is set to start in July, sending periodic payments to lower-income and middle-income families with children. In his speech before Congress, Biden called on the House and Senate to extend the expanded child tax credit to 2025. Others, including Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, also support making the credit permanent since it will lift millions of children out of poverty.

Pass a minimum wage hike: Some senators continue to look for ways to boost the federal minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25 per hour. In his speech before Congress, Biden called on the legislators to raise the minimum wage to $15. Sens. Romney and Kyrsten Sinema have also pitched a hike. Some proponents want to set the bar at a $15 hourly wage but others are looking to go to $11 an hour. "If any senator believes this is the last time they will cast a vote on whether or not to give a raise to 32 million Americans, they are sorely mistaken," Sanders tweeted on March 5. A February report from the Brookings Institute models how a $15 minimum wage could help make 37% of US households financially self-sufficient.

Renew federal unemployment payments beyond September: Along with recurring payments, the 10 progressive senators in their letter to Biden requested he also extend federal unemployment assistance beyond September.

Here's how to report a problem with your stimulus check, how to know if your state owes you money and how you could get a discount on your internet bill through an FCC program.