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VERIFY: Top questions about the coronavirus stimulus checks answered

The CARES Act includes a provision that gives Americans one-time direct payments. Here's what we know about those rebates.

The Senate has passed a historic $2.2 trillion coronavirus economic relief bill and the House is expected to pass it on Friday.

The bill includes a much-talked-about part regarding direct payments to Americans for financial relief. 

There’s a lot of questions surrounding it. How much does it pay? Do you need to file your taxes for 2019? What about the census? Will retirees be included?

The VERIFY team looked at the bill and spoke to a few senators to help get the answers to your questions.

SOURCES

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act

Maryland Senator Ben Cardin

Virginia Senator Mark Warner

The Census Bureau

WHAT WE FOUND

The relief bill will pay adults $1,200 ($2,400 for couples who file together) with an additional $500 per child.

That amount will be reduced by $5 for every $100 that a taxpayer’s income exceeds $75,000 for an individual filer, $112,500 for the head of a household and $150,000 for joint filers.

This will be determined by your 2019 tax filing. If you haven’t filed your taxes for 2019, this will be determined by your 2018 filing.

That’s an important part. The government is sending this money based on recent tax filings, your Social Security Benefit Statement or your Railroad Retirement benefits. 

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) clarified in an email to VERIFY that if you’re on Supplemental Security Income, you’re eligible if you file taxes. If you’re a dependent of someone else, the person claiming you would get an additional $500. He said the IRS will come out with guidance to clarify this.

That’s not all the IRS will clarify. The bill does not address how a person will receive this rebate if a person doesn’t have an income and therefore doesn’t file taxes. Senator Mark Warner said in an email “The IRS will likely have to come out with an announcement clarifying what folks such as retirees should do in order to receive this rebate if they fall in that category.”

He also said separately that this rebate will not be counted as income and therefore will not be taxed.

How will you receive this rebate? 

The bill says you will receive this payment electronically to any account you’ve authorized to receive federal tax refunds. That means it will be a direct deposit to an account you file taxes with. However, if the IRS doesn't have that direct deposit info, people may need to wait a lot longer to get a check. 

The bill didn’t specify the exact timing on when you should get this money. It simply said the Secretary of the Treasury should distribute the rebates “as rapidly as possible.”

The Tax Policy Center noted that in 2008 there was a gap of about three months between passage of the stimulus legislation and the start-up of payments. Additionally, the IRS had worked for three months before enactment of advance payments of tax rate reductions in 2001 and child tax credits in 2003. 

And your census participation won’t matter. 

RELATED: VERIFY: Nothing suggests the proposed stimulus checks will depend on the Census

The Census Bureau debunked this themselves and said, “Your answers cannot be used to impact your eligibility for any government benefits, including any potential stimulus package.”