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Will there be a fourth stimulus check after all? Here’s what we know

Published May 20th, 2021 12:37PM EDT
Stimulus check update
Image: Jeff McCollough/Adobe

The IRS just a few days ago announced that it has now sent out another wave of stimulus checks stemming from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan that President Biden signed into law back in March. That batch of checks marked the ninth wave of payments sent out to American taxpayers since passage of the stimulus legislation and included almost 1 million direct payments, bringing the total number of checks distributed so far to some 165 million payments (with an aggregate value of around $388 billion).

While the incremental disbursement of those checks still underway, meanwhile, it hasn’t stopped plenty of people from keenly anticipating a very specific new kind of stimulus check update: Namely, is there a chance we might actually see a fourth wave of stimulus checks anytime soon?

Oh sure, there are relief benefits making their way to taxpayers that sequentially follow the third wave of $1,400 checks — such as the recurring monthly direct payments set to begin in July that will be distributed to families who qualify for the expanded federal child tax credit. But just because those come next, that doesn’t mean the federal government thinks of them as stimulus check #4. What we’re referring to is the possibility of an actual, official fourth stimulus check, following the three previous one-time payments that were generally for $1,200, $600, and then $1,400.

Let’s take a look at where things stand at the moment along these lines, recapping some clues and recent news that, taken together, could actually point toward the possibility of a fourth coronavirus relief payment coming this year:

The biggest piece of evidence in the “probably won’t happen” column is the fact that President Biden has neither ruled them out nor spoken in favor of them either, at this point. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also seemed to throw cold water on the idea of more stimulus checks earlier this month, when she told reporters: “Those are not free.” And Biden already has his hands full at the moment with priorities that include a renewed conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Middle East, not to mention his big domestic priorities that include passing the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan.

However, here are some important things to note:

  • Letter to Biden. Here’s one of a few hopeful signs — earlier this week, six members of the House Ways and Means Committee sent Biden a letter calling for not only more stimulus checks but a recurring series of payments, as opposed to one-offs like the previous three stimulus checks.
  • Democratic support in Congress. This idea has broad support within Biden’s own party, as several weeks ago a group of congressional Democrats — more than 80 of whom are on board with the idea of more stimulus checks — sent Biden another letter pressing him to get behind a fourth wave of stimulus checks.
  • petition. The idea doesn’t just have the support of congresspeople, either. More than 2.2 million Americans as of the time of this writing have signed a petition calling on the federal government not only to approve another round of stimulus checks but to establish a recurring series of those stimulus payments.
  • States leading the way. And just because the federal government might not be sending out more payments at the moment, that doesn’t mean those same payments can’t come from other sources. For example, individual states can, and some already are, stepping into the gap. This includes a statewide relief package announced by California Gov. Gavin Newsom that’s funding an estimated 5.7 million stimulus checks for residents of the Golden State. It includes sending one-time $600 payments to households receiving the California Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for 2020, while some taxpayers with Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs) will also get $600 payments from the state. Furthermore, any ITIN taxpayers who also qualify for the California EITC will receive a total of $1,200.
Andy Meek
Andy Meek Trending News Reporter

Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.