House lawmakers are taking up the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus proposal this week, starting the push toward approving a bill that for the moment includes $1,400 checks and increased unemployment assistance.
Under the current plan, hammered out Friday (Feb. 19) by nine different House committees, taxpaying individuals earning up to $75,000 and joint filers earning up to $150,000 would receive the full $1,400 direct payments.
Those making up to $100,000 and $200,000, respectively, would get pro-rated checks, with no money for taxpayers earning more. Both children and adult dependents also would be eligible for the full $1,400 payments.
The Democrats’ bill would also increase federal weekly unemployment-benefit supplements from $300 to $400 and extend that program through Aug. 29. The current federal supplement program is set to end in mid-March.
The bill also contains a number of other Democratic priorities, including increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025.
Quicker phase-out of stimulus money
The maximum income caps to get any stimulus checks at all are a bit higher than those for both the first round of payments provided by the CARES Act last spring and the second set of checks allowed under legislation passed in December.
That’s mainly because the proposed payments are $1,400 instead of $1,200 or $600. However, the pro-rating formula that whittles down the size of the check if you make more than the threshold amount is more aggressive this time.
Had the formula for the first two stimulus bills been applied to Biden’s plan, the final income cutoffs would have been at $103,000 for individuals and $206,000 for joint taxpayers.
The new formula reduces stimulus payments by 5.6 cents for every dollar of income above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds, instead of by 5 cents per dollar as under the first two bills. So if you’re an individual who had an adjusted gross income of $90,000 in your last tax filing, you’d get a check for $560, not $650.
Fast track through Congress
The new bill will be taken up first by the House Budget Committee, perhaps as early as today (Feb. 22). If it clears the committee as expected, then the bill could be put to a vote in the full House as early as next week.
After that, the bill is expected to face an uphill battle in the Senate, with most Republicans making clear that they don’t support the plan.
Democrats are using budget reconciliation to push the legislation forward, a process that lets certain kinds of bills pass the Senate with a simple majority vote instead of the usual 60% supermajority. In other words, the Democrats won’t need any GOP votes for the bill as long as every Democrat is on board.
However, some centrist Democrats may oppose certain provisions, such as the minimum-wage increase, meaning the current version of the bill may not be the final one. The Republicans could also argue that the minimum-wage hike neither qualifies for the budget-oriented reconciliation process nor has much to do with pandemic relief.
Despite qualms on Capitol Hill about the size of the bill, a recent poll of 3,000 Americans found that 72% or respondents support Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan.
File your tax return soon for a larger check
The next round of direct payments will be based on either your 2019 or your 2020 tax return. If you made less in 2020 than in 2019 due to job loss, furlough or underemployment, filing your 2020 returns in the next few weeks could net you a larger stimulus check.
If you didn’t receive a second stimulus check and believe you’re eligible, you can claim the amount of the payment as a credit on your 2020 return. Use the Recovery Rebate Credit on line 30 of your Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR.