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How many stimulus checks have been sent so far – and did you miss any?

July 29th, 2021 at 1:08 PM
Stimulus checks

When the idea was first publicly floated during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic last year, people likely didn’t know what to make of it immediately. Trump administration officials were talking about the possibility of issuing stimulus checks, direct cash payments to Americans, as a result of the pandemic having devastated the economy. Even for those in favor of this, it sounded like a pretty dramatic response to the health crisis. And there was certainly no indication back in March 2020 that things would get so bad. Bad enough that wave after wave of stimulus checks would be needed.

Nevertheless, here we are. The IRS is still in the final throes of completing not a second but a third wave of stimulus payments. When the Biden administration took over in January, it looked at everything that had been done so far and stepped on the gas. In all, billions upon billions of stimulus dollars have flowed to Americans during the pandemic. Often, with few if any strings attached.

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Stimulus checks since March 2020

For some perspective into how extraordinary the federal COVID response has been, consider this. Since March of 2020, Americans have received an estimated 478 million direct cash payments from the federal government.

How we arrive at that figure is as follows. Based on data from the IRS, 160 million received a payment during the first stimulus check round, which started April 11, 2020. The Trump administration started sending out a second round of checks in December 2020. That tranche included around 147 million checks.

That takes us up to 307 million stimulus checks.

As of July 21, we learned from the IRS that another 171 million stimulus checks had been sent out. That brings us to 478 million. This batch was a result of the so-called “American Rescue Plan.” And it represented “a total value of more than $400 billion since these payments began rolling out to Americans in batches on March 12.”

The $1.9 trillion stimulus law

The American Rescue Plan is the official name of that massive stimulus legislation enacted in March. It kicked the nation’s stimulus response into high gear.

Not only did it make a third round of payments possible. It also expanded the federal child tax credit, with Americans getting half of it this year as an advance payment. That advance will span six checks, which the IRS has started sending out monthly. All of which is to say, the 478 million figure we noted above is also a little incomplete.

It doesn’t, for example, take into account the child tax credit checks that are coming once a month through December. In all, those will give millions of families as much as $1,800 this year for each eligible child. And they’ll get the second half of the tax credit next year.

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Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.




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