This story is part of Taxes 2022, CNET's coverage of the best tax software and everything else you need to get your return filed quickly, accurately and on-time.
Families and individuals across the country have received three stimulus checks since the start of the pandemic, but a fourth stimulus check isn't likely to happen. There is, however, a petition calling for $2,000 recurring checks to all Americans, which has collected more than 2.9 million signatures, but Congress has no official plans to approve another stimulus payment at this time. But many families are still facing numerous hardships, especially since the enhanced unemployment benefits have expired and delta variant cases are rising.
To close the gap in federal support, several state governments have developed programs to give residents additional financial relief. Millions of Californians received a second round of Golden State Stimulus checks (for $600 up to $1,100), and low-income Marylanders are eligible for direct payments of $300 or $500. Educators received bonuses in states like Florida, Michigan and Tennessee, and some front-line workers in Vermont also received checks.
On a national level, advance monthly child tax credit payments (up to $300 a month per child) are continuing to go out to millions of families through December, with the next coming Oct. 15. Lawmakers are working out a federal budget package that could provide aid in other ways. And some people may qualify for up to $1,400 in additional stimulus money if they had a baby this year, though that money won't come until 2022.
Here's what to know about stimulus money that's been approved and what other aid might be coming your way. If you haven't filed your 2020 tax return yet, don't miss the Oct. 15 deadline as it could get you more stimulus money. Here's what to know about a possible extension of the child tax credit and how to check on your unemployment tax break. We updated this story recently.
Stimulus aid that's received the OK
Child tax credit payments for families: A temporary expansion of the child tax credit for 2021 sends qualifying families up to $3,600 for each child -- you can calculate your total here. The advance partial payments of up to $300 per dependent, which began this summer, are issued monthly (the next one comes on Oct. 15) through the end of the year, with a final payment in 2022.
Parents also have the option of deferring the advance monthly checks and instead get their payment in the spring. There is no cap on the total credit amount that a family with multiple children can claim. If the credit is more than what's owed in taxes, families will receive the excess amount as a tax refund next year. Plus, low-income families can qualify for the maximum credit. Here's more on child tax credit payment dates and eligibility.
Additional federal stimulus money: The third stimulus payments of up to $1,400 are still going out in batches to those who are eligible through the end of 2021. The IRS is also sending out "plus-up" payments, which is extra money making up the difference between the stimulus amount you already received (based on your 2019 return) and the amount you're eligible to receive (based on your updated 2020 return).
Also, if an individual in your family becomes a dependent in 2021, such as a newborn or foster child, they could also be eligible for a $1,400 payment. According to the tax agency, for any new qualifying dependents to receive the third payment you'd have to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2021 tax return that you'll file in 2022.
Stimulus payments to Californians: California has approved two rounds of state-level stimulus payments to eligible residents. Called Golden State Stimulus I and II, these payments are intended to support low-income Californians and help those facing hardships due to the pandemic, the state said. Nearly two-thirds of residents qualify for the expanded Golden State Stimulus II, amounting to a one-time payment of $600 (with an additional $500 for eligible families with children).
Checks started going out in late August and will continue in batches every two weeks through the fall, with the latest round sent out Sept. 17. In order to qualify, you must have been a California resident for most of 2020 and still live there, filed a 2020 tax return, earned less than $75,000 (adjusted gross income and wages), have a Social Security number or an individual taxpayer identification number, and your children can't be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer.
Stimulus aid to Marylanders: Maryland has issued payments of $500 for families and $300 for individuals who filed for the earned income tax credit. Income caps vary from $21,710 (married filing jointly with no qualifying children) to $56,844 (married filing jointly with three or more qualifying children). Maryland's legislation also includes more support for unemployed residents and tax relief for small businesses.
Hazard pay to front-line workers in Vermont: Thousands of workers were rewarded a payment of $1,200 or $2,000 for having stayed on the job in the early weeks of the pandemic. Two rounds of approved funds already went out to the highest-risk employees, like health care workers as well as grocery and retail workers.
Bonus payments to educators: As part of the American Rescue Plan, state and local governments received $350 billion in assistance. Much of that aid will go to schools, with some states deciding to pay their teachers and other school staff a "thank you" bonus of up to $1,000. The states participating are Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado, Texas and California. Michigan also sent $500 in hazard pay to teachers earlier this year. It's likely other states will approve similar funds in the future, as they have until 2024 to spend the funds.
A fourth stimulus payment is currently not in any proposal
Researchers have found that the first three stimulus checks helped reduce hardships like food insufficiency and financial instability. So far, during the pandemic, eligible adults have received a max of $3,200 and children have received up to $2,500. For struggling families, that's not enough to bounce back from lost wages and benefits.
Since the American Rescue Plan, the White House has proposed several packages, including the American Jobs Plan and the Build Back Better agenda, but those don't call for more direct aid. President Joe Biden is "open to a range of ideas" regarding stimulus aid, according to a June statement by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, but he already put forward what would be "the most effective for the short term."
The scaled-back compromise of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal, which was agreed to in the Senate on July 28, doesn't include anything related to "human infrastructure" -- it doesn't address child care, improved wages or job training. Instead, those elements are to be included in the proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, which is likely to be scaled back. The White House has outlined its "Build Back Better Agenda," incorporating lower health care costs, tax cuts and investments in teachers and schools. Senate Democrats are working on the economic plan, but the process of approving final versions of the bill in Congress could take a while.
It's been a long time since Democratic members of the House and Senate argued for another stimulus check. In late March, a group of lawmakers asked Biden to include regular stimulus payments (PDF) in his next stimulus package. In May, several members of the House Ways and Means Committee (PDF) made a similar request. Citing increased poverty and spiraling debt among Americans, they noted that "most people spent relief checks on monthly expenses or essentials such as food, utilities, rent and mortgage payments."
A $2,000 stimulus check petition is close to 3 million signatures
A Change.org petition that has collected more than 2.9 million signatures calls on Congress to send out a fourth stimulus check of $2,000 for adults and $1,000 for children on a monthly basis for the remainder of the pandemic. The petition notes that "the recovery hasn't reached many Americans" and points to the need for immediate checks and recurring payments so that "we can keep our heads above water." While the Change.org petition is close to becoming one of the most popular on its website, whether it will have any effect is another question.
More money could be approved by Congress soon
Though there's plenty we still don't know and much up for debate, there could be additional cash in the pockets of Americans in the following scenarios:
If the child tax credit raise is made permanent. Money from the expanded child tax credit started this summer with monthly payments to millions of lower- and middle-income families with children. In a speech this summer, Biden called on Congress to extend the expanded child tax credit through 2025. Some lawmakers and economists are now pushing for the enhanced credit, and House Democrats put forward a proposal to make it permanent, though it is still controversial.
If there's a minimum wage hike. Some senators continue to look for ways to boost the federal minimum wage, which stands at $7.25 per hour. A few proponents want to set the bar at a $15 hourly wage, and others are looking to only go up to $11 an hour. In recent years, many states, localities and businesses have implemented minimum wage increases above the federal level. However, the discussion of a new national rate of $15 an hour has hit a roadblock in recent months, and the likelihood of it being enacted anytime soon is low.
In the meantime, here's what to know about the tax refunds going out for those who received unemployment benefits in 2020.