Of all the questions Americans wanted answered in 2021, one of the most popular on Google was about stimulus checks for COVID-19 relief. So it stands to reason people are holding out hope for another in 2022.
Since early 2020, there have been three direct-payment stimulus checks approved by Congress and Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden to help Americans struggling financially during the pandemic. They were $1,200 in March 2020 under the CARES Act, $600 in December 2020 and $1,400 in March 2021 under the American Rescue Plan. There was also additional money for dependents.
On top of this, the American Rescue Plan included monthly advance child tax credit payments sent to eligible American families. Plus, there was tax forgiveness on the first $10,200 of unemployment Americans received in 2020.
What about 2022? Here's what we know about future stimulus payments and who still qualifies for past ones.
Is Congress talking about a fourth stimulus check?
There are no signs that lawmakers in Washington, D.C. are in serious discussions about a fourth direct payment stimulus check. While there have been calls by the public and from some lawmakers for recurring payments, there has been practically nothing in terms of action.
Emails and phone calls to the White House, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is chair of the Senate Budget Committee, and Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., chair of the House Budget Committee, asking if such payments are under discussion were not returned.
One pandemic-related stimulus that is being considered for an extension is the monthly advance child tax credit. It raised the previous tax credit from $2,000 at tax time to $3,000-$3,600 with the option of monthly payments. A one-year extension is part of the Build Back Better bill that passed the House. But Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., announced Sunday he would not vote for it. With no Republicans on board, passage of the bill is doomed unless an alternative is found.
A group of Democrats sent a letter to Biden in back in May calling for recurring stimulus checks, but the letter did not get into specifics and nothing else came of it.
A change.org petition started by Denver restaurant owner Stephanie Bonin in 2020 called on Congress to pass regular checks of $2,000 for adults and $1,000 for kids for the duration of the pandemic crisis.
It picked up 2 million signatures in 2020, putting it on change.org's top 10 petitions for the year along with petitions in support of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Ahmaud Arbery, student loan debt cancellation and PPE for medical professionals.
As of late December, the petition has reached nearly 3 million signatures.
More third stimulus payment money for some in 2022
Parents who added a child in 2021 could be getting up to $1,400 after they file their 2021 taxes this coming spring thanks to the American Rescue Plan. The money won't come as a direct check but will be part of the overall tax return.
The 2021 Economic Impact Payment -- colloquially known as the third stimulus check -- was actually an advance on what is called the 2021 Recovery Rebate Credit. What that means is that the $1,400 stimulus check most individual Americans received in 2021 is, in fact, money they would have gotten after filing their taxes in the spring of 2022 as a Recovery Rebate Credit.
In other words, millions of Americans already got part of their tax refund 12 months early.
"The bottom line is that's money that's going out almost immediately to millions of people as a tax credit in advance of putting it on a tax return in the next year," said Raphael Tulino, IRS spokesman.
However, the IRS was going off of 2019 or 2020 tax returns for its information on the third EIP. It was using that information to determine if taxpayers would get stimulus money for their dependents. If eligible parents had a child born into their family in 2021, they can request the Recovery Rebate Credit on their taxes to get the payment for that child.
It gets more complicated with adoption because all the paperwork and processes to finalize the adoption must be completed first.
"At that point then, per eligibility rules, that child can be claimed for an Economic Impact Payment," said Tulino.
Anyone else who believes they are due more money from the EIP in 2021, whether it was due to an income change or the addition of a dependent, can also apply for a Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their taxes. Individuals earning up to $75,000 received the full amount of the EIP as did married couples with incomes up to $150,000. The size of the check was reduced for those making slightly more, with a hard cut-off at $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for married couples.
The IRS will send out Letter 6475 to Americans in early 2022. The agency said this letter will confirm the total amount the taxpayer received from the third stimulus check and any plus-up payments they received in 2021.
This does not pertain to the first or second stimulus payments that were paid in 2020.
Child tax credit payment from third stimulus still coming
Separate from the direct payments for the third stimulus check, tens of millions of eligible American families will be getting another credit on their tax returns in the spring due to the American Rescue Plan. They will get at least half of the child tax credit and some will get all of it.
The total amount is $3,600 for each child up to age 5 and $3,000 for each child ages 6-17. Income limits to receive the maximum amount on the child tax credit were $75,000 for individual parents, $112,500 for a head of household and $150,000 for parents who filed their taxes jointly.
Just as the Economic Impact Payments were an advance on the Recovery Rebate Credit, eligible families were able to take an advance on the child tax credit in the form of monthly payments from July to December.
Those parents who took half of the child tax credit money through the monthly installments will get the other half -- $1,800 or $1,500 per child -- at tax time. Those who completely opted out of the monthly payments will get the full amount. Those who opted out of some but not all payments will get something in between.
Those who do not regularly file tax returns -- typically those with very low incomes -- and did not apply to receive the credit in 2021 can file a tax return in the spring and get the full amount as well.
$5,000 from the IRS for a newborn, at least for some
Look back at the previous two sections and do the math.
If a child was born to a family in 2021, chances are they didn't report it to the IRS. They may also have not opted to sign up for the monthly child tax credit.
Under that scenario, they potentially will get up to $5,000 when they put the child down as a dependent on their 2021 tax return -- $1,400 from the third stimulus check in the form of the Recovery Rebate Credit and $3,600 for the full child tax credit.
This assumes the parent or parents fall within the income thresholds listed above.