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Joe Biden's stimulus check changes: Do you still qualify for $1,400?

Joe Biden's stimulus check changes: Do you still qualify for $1,400?
Joe Biden's stimulus check changes: Do you still qualify for $1,400?

Congress is moving quickly on the third round of stimulus checks, for up to $1,400. However, a new compromise could leave you out this time.

The Senate passed the legislation on Saturday — but first, President Joe Biden OK'd a plan from Senate Democrats to change the eligibility rules, to "target" the stimulus checks away from Americans with higher incomes. That means millions of previous recipients won't get cash in the new go-round.

Democratic leaders who control Congress hope to complete work on the bill so Biden can sign it in the coming week. Which means it may not be long before you have an additional $1,400 to pay down debt, save or use for expenses.

That is, if you're still eligible.

What's happening with the stimulus checks?

United States Capitol Building East Portico, Washington, DC 4/4/2020
creeed / Shutterstock

The stimulus checks are part of a $1.9 trillion COVID rescue package that Democrats are pushing along using a maneuver that allows passage with only simple majorities — meaning potentially no support from Republicans.

The Democrats' Senate majority is as thin as can be, so the party needed every vote from its side to pass the Senate. To win over the chamber's more conservative Democrats, Biden agreed to narrow the eligibility for stimulus checks. Here's how it works:

  • Individuals earning less than $75,000 and couples making under $150,000 would still receive a full $1,400. Then, payments would start phasing out.

  • There would be no money for single taxpayers earning more than $80,000 or joint filers with incomes above $160,000.

Previously, the cutoff points were incomes of $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for couples. With the change, close to 17 million fewer Americans will get payments this time, according to an analysis from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.

The conservatives wanted the stimulus checks targeted toward needy Americans struggling with basic expenses. The first, $1,200 checks last spring were primarily spent on essentials like food and rent, a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey found.

Some of that cash also was used for saving and investing, or for other things that may have included buying affordable life insurance. Demand for policies has surged amid COVID.

How soon will you get your money?

The pandemic relief legislation includes $400 a week in emergency federal unemployment benefits. Democrats are racing to get a bill to Biden before the current federal jobless benefits run out on March 14.

With the Senate now on board, the aid package gets kicked back to the U.S. House for one last vote before delivery to the White House for the president's signature. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has indicated that final House passage could come as early as Monday.

What that means is the bill may become law within days — and, if the IRS is able to start getting the payments out as quickly as it did for the last round in early January, you could get your $1,400 check during the second half of March.

What if you won’t get a stimulus check this time?

Tired working mom with child in her lap, head in hand and looking at bills on table
Kaspars Grinvalds / Shutterstock

If the new income limits could keep you from receiving the full $1,400 check — or any payment at all — there are a few of things you can do to raise some cash:

  • File your 2020 taxes ASAP. You might still qualify for a stimulus check if your income dropped in 2020 because of the pandemic. The IRS will base your eligibility on your most recent tax return, so you’ll want to get your 2020 income information in front of the tax agency ASAP. Log into a good tax software product and get your return in immediately.

  • Cut the cost of your debt. If you’ve been relying on your credit cards through the pandemic, the expensive interest may be catching up with you by now. Make your debt easier to carry — and unload sooner — by folding your balances into a single debt consolidation loan at lower interest.

  • Reduce your mortgage payments by refinancing your mortgage. If you haven’t looked around for a lower interest rate on your home loan in the last year, there’s no better time than now. Rates remain historically low, and refinancing your current mortgage could reap big savings.

  • Shrink your insurance bills. Has your car insurance company offered you a discount because you’ve been driving way less through the pandemic? No? Then maybe it’s time to shop around to find a better deal. And while you’re looking, you could save hundreds by comparing rates to find a lower price on homeowners insurance.

  • Trim your budget and "make your own" stimulus check. By finding a few creative ways to cut back, you could rearrange your budget to squeeze out another $1,400. Put off running your dishwasher or washing machine until you have full loads, and use the appliances during cheaper, off-peak energy hours. Turn your hobby or special talent into a side hustle to bring in extra income. And, download a free browser add-on that will automatically scour for better prices and coupons whenever you shop online.