In the March 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, Congress approved $450 billion for the IRS to send out a third round of stimulus payments. Most of this total has now been spent. On Wednesday, the IRS issued a statement announcing that it had distributed an additional 2.2 million payments during July, bringing its total number of payments up to 171 million nationwide – and the total amount of cash sent out at more than $400 million.
The checks that have been sent out since March represent the third round of stimulus payments to American adults since the beginning of the pandemic in the United States in March 2020. The same month, then-President Donald Trump approved a stimulus measure distributing $1,200 to eligible adults. In December 2020, amid the controversy surrounding the 2020 election and Trump’s attempts to overturn the result, Congress passed a smaller bill, sending out a second round of $600 checks. Many Democrats felt that this amount had been too low; in Congress, they had pushed for $2,000 checks, and Biden announced that when he entered the Oval Office, he would push for the full amount. This difference explains the unusual $1,400 checks sent out by the Biden administration in early March.
For the third round of stimulus payments, recipients have been eligible for the checks if they earn less than $75,000 per year, or if they and their spouse, filing jointly, earn less than $150,000. Each dependent that families have also qualifies them for an additional $1,400.
The Treasury Department indicated in a June statement that more than half of the stimulus payments had gone to households earning less than $50,000 per year.
The IRS’s statement on Wednesday confirmed that the group had sent out $4 billion in direct stimulus aid, $2.6 billion of which went to new recipients who had not previously received a stimulus check, owing to their absence in the tax collection agency’s database. When these individuals filed their 2020 tax returns, they were entered into the IRS’s system and received their payments. An additional $1.6 billion was sent in “plus-up” payments to families who had previously received a check, but qualified for additional benefits based on their 2020 tax returns.
The IRS said that it would continue to send the aid out each week until all eligible Americans had received their checks. The agency continues to process 2020 tax returns, and will likely continue to find new eligible recipients based on the information contained within them.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for The National Interest.