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This is how a second stimulus check could bring you a bigger payment. We did the math – CNET

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We help you estimate the maximum amount that could end up in your bank account if another stimulus payment is approved.

Angela Lang/CNET

Though the Nov. 3 election is 23 days away, it’s still unclear if qualified Americans will get a second stimulus check this year. The negotiations to pass a broad stimulus bill continue into the weekend after a topsy turvy week that saw President Donald Trump — who’s been treated with a powerful steroid for COVID-19 — swing from stopping negotiations entirely to saying he supports a larger bill than Democrats and Republicans both. 

A new stimulus bill that includes a second direct payment is considered crucial by both parties to stem the country’s growing economic woes.

The White House’s $1.8 trillion proposal makes one large and important change to a qualification that affects whether your family receives more money in the second check than it did in the first. We walk you through the math below.

Here’s how your potential payment could be different if your financial circumstances have changed since the first round of payments, in March. This story was recently updated.

Why a second payment may bring more (or less) than $1,200

If another stimulus bill passes and includes a second stimulus check, it’s likely that $1,200 will remain the maximum for individuals, as it was in the last stimulus bill and two proposals. For most people, calculating the total amount requires them to know their adjusted gross income, or AGI and other eligibility requirements

And two new moves on dependents could bring in more money, too. One approach, which is advanced in two previous stimulus proposals, will let you claim a dependent of any age. On the other hand, the most recent White House proposal will keep the age restriction, but give you $1,000 per child rather than $500 apiece.

Here are some potential scenarios for how the two different approaches could play out for families. The $1,000 per child proposal brings more money to families with young kids, even if the parents are relatively high earners. The other proposal is, by design, more beneficial to families with adult dependents, like a college student or parent. The $1,000 proposal would bring twice the allocation for dependents as the $500 proposal to a family with three young dependents ($3,000 versus $1,500). You can use our stimulus check calculator to get a more specific estimate for your particular situation. 

Stimulus check calculations with dependents

Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Scenario 4
Tax filing status Single Head of household Married Married
2018 or 2019 tax AGI $45,000 $60,000 $160,000 $190,000
TOTAL BEFORE DEPENDENTS $1,200 $2,400 $1,900 $400
ESTIMATED TOTAL WITH:
1 dependent under 17 ($1,000 total) $2,200 $3,400 $2,900 $1,400
3 dependents under 17 ($3,000 total) $4,200 $5,400 $4,900 $3,400
1 dependent of any age ($500 total) $1,700 $2,900 $2,400 $900
3 dependents of any age ($1,500 total) $2,700 $3,900 $3,400 $1,900

What do you need to do before the IRS sends you a second check?

The IRS will send your check automatically, if there’s another stimulus payment and if you’re eligible, but there may be some things you can do to help make sure you receive your money quickly.

Register for direct deposit to your bank account: Direct deposit will be the fastest way to get your money. The IRS already has a system in place to electronically transfer the funds into your checking account, if you already provided those details and registered for direct deposit for your first check or as part of filing your IRS tax return. 

Now playing: Watch this: Next stimulus checks: What to expect

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Look for the registration tool to reopen if another stimulus check is issued. If you don’t have a bank account, read on for other ways to prepare.

If you moved, you need to let the post office know: If you don’t have direct deposit, a physical check is the most likely way that you’ll receive a stimulus check. The IRS will mail your check to your last known address, so If you’ve moved recently, you’ll need to file a change of address with the US Postal Service.

Keep an eye on the mail: For the first stimulus payment, instead of a paper check, about 4 million people received a prepaid economic impact payment card in the mail. This is money you can spend like cash on a debit card. The cards came in plain, unmarked envelopes that were prone to being tossed by mistake. When and if the time comes, you can sign up for a free USPS service to track your mail all the way to your mailbox, so there are no surprises — or disappointments.

Beware of scams: Stimulus check fraud is real, and it’s still ongoing as millions of people continue to wait for their first checks. Fraudsters prey on people they consider vulnerable. Knowing common attacks can help you recognize and avoid them. There’s no second stimulus check scheduled right now, but that won’t stop a scammer from trying to take advantage.

If you’re still waiting for your first stimulus check, follow these steps.

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The amount of stimulus money you could get in a second round of checks is still undecided. 

James Martin/CNET

What did people spend the first round of stimulus checks on?

A recent survey looked at how Americans are using their stimulus checks. According to research from the National Bureau of Economic Research:

  • 15% of recipients said they had spent or would spend most of their check.
  • 33% said they mostly saved.
  • 52% said they paid down debt.

In general, the report found that lower-income households were significantly more likely to spend their stimulus check, higher-income individuals were more likely to save it and those with mortgages or who were renters were much more likely to pay off debt.

According to the US Census Bureau, here’s the breakout for households that spent their stimulus checks on items rather than keeping it as savings or paying down debt.

  • 80% of those who spent their checks reported using it on food.
  • 77.9% spent it on rent, mortgage and utilities.
  • 58.2% bought household supplies and personal care products.
  • 20.5% purchased clothing.
  • 8.1% spent it on household goods — such as TVs, electronics, furniture and appliances — or recreational goods, including fitness equipment, toys and games.

Looking for more stimulus check information? Read up on all the finer points of the stimulus payment here. If you’re still waiting for your first stimulus check, here are 10 possible reasons for a delaywhat you can do if you think your payment was lost or has fallen through the cracks and whether you could receive two refund checks from the IRS.

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