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Senate bill will narrow who can receive $1,400 stimulus checks

It's estimated that the change to the bill will affect more than 7 million families across the United States.
The first stimulus package, passed in March 2020, gave $1,200 to eligible adults and $500 per eligible dependent.TODAY illustration / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

A third stimulus bill will be debated today, but a last-minute change to the relief package means that about 7 million families may not receive a $1,400 check.

Initially, the $1.9 trillion stimulus package, which is known as the American Rescue Plan, included $1,400 checks for people who make an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or less, or couples who earn up to $150,000. The checks would have phased out as income increased, and individuals earning more than $100,000 a year and couples earning over $200,000 a year would not receive a check at all. Eligible families also would receive $1,400 for each dependent claimed on a tax return.

The change to the bill comes as a result of President Joe Biden striking a deal with moderate Democrats who wanted to limit the amount of direct payments. According to NBC's Kristin Welker, the compromise is necessary since no Republicans are expected to support the bill. Under the new deal, individuals making more than $80,000 a year and couples making more than $160,000 a year would not receive any payments.

According to the Penn Wharton budget model, that would mean about 7 million families would not receive a stimulus check from the American Rescue Plan. According to CNBC, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy estimated that that would affect about 12 million adults and 4.6 million children in the country.

"That being said, it does not make a difference and it basically makes no difference for the bottom 60% of Americans, the folks who really need help," Steve Wamhoff, ITEP's director of federal tax policy, told CNBC. The institute told CNBC that about 280 million Americans would still be eligible for stimulus payments even under the narrower restrictions.

The first stimulus package, passed in March 2020, gave $1,200 to eligible adults and $500 per eligible dependent. The second stimulus package, passed in December 2020, gave $600 to eligible adults and the same amount to eligible dependents.

The American Rescue Plan, like previous stimulus packages, includes more than just direct payments: According to the New York Times, the plan includes an extension of expanded unemployment benefits, money for vaccination programs, $350 billion for state and local governments, and grants for small businesses.

The bill is expected to move quickly: According to Welker, the bill has a "good chance of passing both chambers" if there are "no other major changes."

"Democrats are aiming to finalize this by March 14, when the COVID unemployment benefits (from prior stimulus packages) run out," Welker explained on TODAY.