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1st and 2nd stimulus payments

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and Greater Boston Legal Services
Reviewed January 4, 2021

What is an economic impact or “stimulus” payment?

The government is sending “stimulus” payments to most taxpayers and their families because the Coronavirus caused so many people to lose their income. These payments are part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. People also call these payments, “Economic Impact” or “Recovery” payments. These are all different names for the same payment.

Second Economic Impact (Stimulus) Payment

On December 21, 2020 Congress agreed to a another payment:

  • $600 for people who qualify, 
  • $600 for each dependent child who qualifies, and
  • $1,200 for married couples filing jointly who qualify.

President Trump signed the bill into law on December 27, 2020.

Filing as an individual: To get the latest $600 stimulus payment you must have made less than $75,000 in 2019 and meet the same qualifications as for the first stimulus payment. See Do I qualify for a payment?

Filing jointly as a couple: If you are a couple and you file your taxes 'married filing jointly,' you can get $1,200 if your combined income  was less than $150,000 in 2019.
If only one of you has a Social Security Number and the other does not, you can qualify for the stimulus payments for one person.

The government says the second payments started going out at the end of 2020. Just like before, the payment will be deposited directly into your bank account if you have information on file with the IRS.

If you do not get the payments, you can file for a Recovery Rebate Credit when you file your 2020 federal income taxes. You should be able to check the status of your payment on the IRS Get My Payment webpage

When you file your 2020 taxes you can ask for a rebate  to claim both the first and second stimulus payments if you never got them. Wait until you have all the forms like W-2s and 1099s you need before you file. The deadline, as usual is April 15. If you apply for an extension by April 15, you can push the filing deadline to October 15, 2021. As long as you get a Social Security Number by October 15, 2021, and your income is low enough, you can file a tax return for 2020 and claim the Recovery Rebate Credit for both the first and second stimulus payments. 

Find a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) site near you, to get free help with your taxes.

Do I qualify for a payment?

You qualify for the stimulus payments if:

  • You file a tax return for 2020, 2019 or 2018. You have until April 15, 2021 to mail in your your 2020 tax return. Or,
  • You receive SSI, Social Security or railroad retiree benefits and are not required to file a tax return. Or
  • You have a low income and you file the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info online on the IRS website The deadline to register was November 21, 2020.  If you missed the deadline, you may still be able to get the payment when you file your 2020 taxes. See the IRS Economic Payment Information Center 


  1. You must have a social security number.
  2. You cannot be a dependent on someone else’s tax form, and
  3. Your income must be below the limits for your filing status. See How much will I get?

How much is the first stimulus payment?

If you qualify, your payment is:

  • $1,200 if you file taxes as an individual and your “adjusted gross income” (AGI) is $75,000 or less. Find your AGI on line 7 of your 2018 1040 income tax form, or line 8 of your 2019 1040 tax form.
  • $1,200 if you file taxes as head of household and your “adjusted gross income” (AGI) is $112,500, or less.
  • $2,400 if you file taxes jointly as a married couple, you both have Social Security Numbers, and your  adjusted gross income is $150,000 or less.

If your income is higher you will get a lower payment or no payment. See the IRS information for more details.

What about money for my children?

In the first stimulus payment
You also get $500 for each dependent, “qualifying child” 16 or under. The same rules used for the Child Tax Credit decide who is a qualifying child for the payment.

The $500 payments for children are based on the number of children you reported on your last tax form for 2018, 2019 or 2020.

If you have a dependent child who is age 17 or over, you will not get the extra $500 for them.

Try the Washington Post’s Stimulus Payment Calculator to see how much you might get.

If your parents can claim you as a dependent on their tax return, you do not qualify for a stimulus payment.

In the second stimulus payment
You will get $600 for each “qualifying child” 16 or under.

Is the stimulus payment “taxable income”?

No it is not.

Does the stimulus payment count as income or assets for my public benefits?

The stimulus payment will not count as income for MassHealth, Medicare, SSI, TAFDC, SNAP, federal housing or any other benefit funded by the federal government.

The payment will not count as an asset for 12 months for MassHealth, Medicare, SSI, TAFDC, SNAP, federal housing or any other benefit funded by the federal government. If you still have money left over after 12 months, it might count then.

Benefit programs funded only by Massachusetts have not announced their rules for the stimulus payment.  We will update this information when we learn more.

Do I need to have a social security number to get a payment?

Yes. If you are married filing jointly, at least one of you must have SSN. If you both have a Social Security Number and you qualify, you can get up to $2,400. If only one of you has a Social Security Number, you only qualify for up $1,200. An individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) is not enough. Any children you claim as dependents for the recovery payment must have a Social Security Number. 

There are two exceptions:

  • an adopted child can have an adoption taxpayer identification number (ATIN) instead of a Social Security number.
  • for married members of the U.S. armed forces, only one spouse needs to have a Social Security number.

Will the IRS call me to ask me any questions after I file my taxes or fill out the online form?

No! The IRS will not call you to ask for any of your personal information or your bank account. Do not give this information out to anyone who calls you. This is a scam.

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