What is the current status of the $2,000 Survival Checks?

In times of economic crisis, the government has often used “stimulus checks” as a way of boosting the economy.

Congress will pass a law that creates an advance on refundable tax credits.

In 2020, Congress created two stimulus checks – a $1,200 stimulus check created by the CARES Act and a smaller $600 stimulus check passed into law in late December.

Between when Congress passed the law and when President Trump signed it, the President repeatedly stated that $600 wasn’t enough. ($600 isn’t nearly enough) Trump said he supported $2,000 checks and the House of Representatives moved quickly to pass a law that offered it. The Senate, as of December 30th, has yet to take it up.

What are Survival Checks?

Much like death taxes (estate tax) and other fun political terms, a survival check is the same as a stimulus check. Calling it survival is a bit more accurate since the purpose of the funds is to help Americans with a bit of economic support. Many are out of work, which explains why the is also an extension and expansion of unemployment insurance benefits, and these checks are meant to help bolster their finances.

It was a name first used by Senate Minority Leader Check Schumer (D-NY) in a statement on December 29th: “Senator McConnell knows how to make $2,000 survival checks reality and he knows how to kill them. If Sen. McConnell tries loading up the bipartisan House-passed CASH Act with unrelated, partisan provisions that will do absolutely nothing to help struggling families across the country.”

$2,000 Survival Checks

The CASH Act, which passed the House of Representatives, replaced the $600 stimulus check with a $2,000 direct payment. It takes the structure of the $600 checks and makes the top-line number $2,000 while keeping the amount for dependents at $600 each.

If this were passed into law, any individual who earned $75,000 or less (adjusted gross income) would get $2,000 for themselves and $600 for each qualifying child age 16 and under. Joint couples who earned less than $150,000 would get $4,000 for themselves and $600 for each qualifying child 16 and under.

If you earned more than those amounts, the amount of your check would decrease by 5% for each dollar you earned above those limits. This phaseout is much larger given the larger checks, so single filers would still get a check if they made less than $115,000 (and had no dependents).

How to Calculate Your Survival Check

To calculate how much you get, add up individuals to know your total amount ($2000 for single, $4,000 for joint; plus $600 per child 16 and under).

Then calculate the amount you earned (adjusted gross income from 2019) above the phaseout floors:

  • Single filer: $75,000
  • Joint filers: $150,000
  • Head of Household: $112,500

Multiply that amount by 0.05 and subtract it from your total.

One other wrinkle, based on the timing, is that the CASH Act updated the $600 stimulus check so as those checks go out, you will need to deduct what you received in the “first” round from this amount. For example, if a single were eligible for the full amount of the $600 checks then the passage of the CASH ACt would mean they get a second payment of $1400 ($2,000 minus the $600 already received).

When are the $2,000 Survival Checks Coming?

They have not passed the Senate and Senator Mitch McConnell tied the higher payments to other political issues – a repeal of legal protections for social media companies as well as a commission to investigate election fraud. Not uncommon in the political world, to be honest, but we have to see what the Senate does.

What’s challenging is that the $600 checks were lowered to $600 (from $1,200 in the Cares Act) because Republican Senators were wary of passing too much stimulus. Several Republican Senators have said $2,000 would be too high and not targeted enough – so it’s unclear whether it would pass even if Senator McConnell brought it up on its own (and as a result, he won’t). Though the two Republican Senators in Georgia (Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue), who are facing a run-off, were quick to jump on the $2,000 check bandwagon.

If the $2,000 survival checks are passed into law, the Department of the Treasury has been very quick in sending out the next round of checks and I suspect they will be just as fast with futures ones too.

This is a developing story so I’ll update this as we learn more.

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