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Stimulus checks, SSDI, SSI: Will you be eligible for a third payment, plus everything else to know

A third stimulus check could arrive as early as the end of next month. Here's every way new qualification rules could affect SSDI and SSI recipients, plus how to claim missing money from the first two checks.

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The rules for a third stimulus check aren't final yet, but here's what we know so far when it comes to SSI and SSDI.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In just weeks, a third stimulus check could arrive in your mailbox, or in your bank account. And if you're a recipient of Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income, you're probably wondering if you're eligible for a new check of up to $1,400 per person. While we won't know a definite answer until a final bill is passed, the answer is likely yes. And it would include your dependents of all ages, making the total sum of your check much larger than the first two payments. (Here's how the three stimulus checks compare.)

On Friday, the House of Representatives will vote on a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, with the goal of passing it into law by mid-March, when unemployment benefits expire. If the House approves (which is highly likely), it will move on to the Senate for another vote. If the Senate agrees to keep all of the details in the most recent proposal (PDF) the same for stimulus payments, people who are part of the SSDI and SSI programs will be eligible for the new check. However, there could be some overall changes to the payments -- and if you stopped or started receiving SSI or SSDI in 2019 or 2020, your situation could become complicated this tax season

Your third stimulus check payment and when you receive it all depends on the finalized details bill. We'll explain how to claim any money you're missing from the first two stimulus checks -- even if you don't usually file taxes -- and can help answer how your third payment might arrive. This story was recently updated.

SSI and SSDI groups: Third stimulus check eligibility rules

While the details are still being completed, it seems likely that people who receive SSI and SSDI will once again automatically qualify to receive a third stimulus check for $1,400, as they did for the first and second round of payments. 

For the first two rounds, those individuals were eligible so long as they had a Social Security number and weren't claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return, and so long as their household income didn't exceed the threshold set ($75,000 single, $112,500 head of household, $150,000 married). 

President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal, however, expands stimulus payment eligibility for dependents of all ages, including young adults age 17 to 24 and older adult dependents. It would also increase the amount allotted for those dependents to $1,400 each. Congress is also debating how "targeted" the third checks should be -- it's possible that the income threshold will lower, so some families could get more money, while others could get less or none at all.

Those receiving Railroad Retirement and Veterans Affairs benefits also should automatically qualify for a payment, as they did in the first and second round. 

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When you could expect a third stimulus payment to arrive

Other than the $1,400 maximum per adult and dependent, here are some other things you might like to know about how a third stimulus check is shaping up so far:

  • The first checks could go out in March. When you get a new payment could depend on how you get your funds.
  • The IRS and Treasury would use your previous information on file to automatically send you a check.
  • The Treasury would "conduct outreach to nonfilers to inform them of how to file" for their third payment, if extra information is needed, according to this proposal (PDF).
  • Any missing payment from a third check would be paid out as part of tax season 2021, a year from now. You would likely have to file a tax return to claim it, if the IRS were to follow the same pattern for missing stimulus check money as now (more below).
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The rules surrounding the second stimulus check can get confusing, fast.

Sarah Tew/CNET

How would my third stimulus check be sent to me? 

Most SSI and SSDI recipients didn't receive their first payments via their Direct Express card, though this is usually what the government uses to distribute federal benefits. Instead, the payment arrived through a non-Direct Express bank account or as a paper check, if you didn't have your bank account information on file with the IRS. 

For the second round of payments, the IRS said on its website that SSI and SSDI recipients should have gotten their stimulus check money the same way they received their first stimulus checks, possibly faster, as the IRS already has the payment system set up. People who received the first round of payments via Direct Express should have received the second payment the same way, according to the IRS. It's likely that the same will be true of a third check, if one is sent out (here's a possible timeline for when the IRS could send out a third check). 

If you receive SSI but not Social Security benefits, and did not file for taxes in 2019, the IRS will automatically send your payment the same way you normally receive your SSI benefits, such as by direct deposit, Direct Express card or paper check

Dependents could get more stimulus money than ever in a third round of payments

For the second stimulus check, as long as your children were 16 years old or younger, they would contribute $600 toward the final total of your household's second stimulus check. You can use our stimulus check calculator to figure your family's total estimate.

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If you're missing stimulus money for yourself or your dependents, you'll need to claim it on your tax return.

Angela Lang/CNET

Under the CARES Act, qualified people with dependents age 16 or younger were eligible for up to $500 per child dependent, but not everyone actually received that extra money

The proposed third stimulus check would make dependents of all ages eligible for up to $1,400 that would apply to the household's total payment, not just children under 17. That would include older adult relatives and college-age children as well.

Here's who the IRS counts as an adult to receive their own stimulus check.

If you're missing money from the first stimulus two checks and you don't file taxes, read this

According to the IRS, people who receive Social Security retirement, SSDI, SSI and Railroad Retirement benefits, as well as Veterans Affairs beneficiaries, were automatically eligible for the first two payments. If you receive these federal benefits as your only form of income, you weren't required to file a federal income tax return in 2018 or 2019. Under the CARES Act passed in March 2020, you should have received a stimulus check automatically (no need to file a simple tax return, as the IRS had originally said).

If that money didn't arrive, it's possible you might have had a payment garnished for child support or to pay a specific kind of creditor, but the rules changed with a second check. However, an IRS error could also be one potential culprit, or that the IRS needed more information about your eligibility. 

To receive your money now, you'll need to claim the additional amount as part of tax season 2020, using the Recovery Rebate Credit. Even if you don't usually file taxes, you will have to do so to get those funds. 

In some cases -- like if you received a letter from the IRS confirming that your payment was sent, but you never actually got the money -- you may need to contact the IRS to request a payment trace

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It isn't too late to claim missing stimulus money, but you have to file a tax return to do so. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

How to file for missing stimulus check money for your dependents

If you used the IRS' Non-Filers tool from May 5 through Aug. 15 of 2020, the IRS should've automatically issued the catch-up payment for your dependents in October 2020. If you received your original stimulus money by direct deposit, you should've gotten the catch-up payment the same way. Others would have received it in the mail. 

If you filed for your missing dependent money by Nov. 21, 2020, the payment should have arrived by the end of 2020 in the same way you received your first payment (likely direct deposit or by mail). If you missed the deadline, your check should be included on your 2020 tax return in 2021, if you file for a Recovery Rebate Credit.

To check the status of your or your dependent's payment, use the IRS' online tool to track it.

If I'm an SSI or SSDI recipient but don't live in the US, what do I need to know?

If you're a Social Security beneficiary with a foreign address whose monthly benefit is deposited in a foreign bank account, you'll receive your stimulus payment as a check in the mail. (The IRS doesn't usually deposit money into foreign banks.) The IRS planned to start sending the first raft of checks to those recipients at the end of July 2020. 

If you live abroad but receive your monthly benefits through a US bank, you should have received your first payment by direct deposit to that account by the end of July as well. It isn't clear what will happen to this group with the second check, but if it wasn't distributed by Jan. 15, it will have to be claimed as part of a tax return. Find out everything you need to know about stimulus checks, citizenship and living abroad here.

Here's everything else we know about third stimulus checks so far, including when they could arrive.