What does the election have to do with stimulus checks? Everything.

Angela Lang/CNET

Individuals and families hoping for economic aid from the federal government will have to wait until after the election on Nov. 3 and perhaps until next year, with White House and Democratic negotiators having walked away from talks on another financial stimulus package. “I would have hoped that we could have done it before the election,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on MSNBC on Friday.

Washington — including Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden — does remain committed to more assistance, which could provide a second direct payment of up to $1,200 per qualified adult and more for some cases. (P.S. Here’s how the IRS calculates stimulus amounts.) But the question is when — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has suggested he won’t lead the Senate to vote on a bill until after January 2021, which is two months away.

The results of the election could affect the next stimulus payment in five major ways, which we’ll spell out below. This story updates with new information. 

Read moreNobody can take your stimulus check away, right? Not quite

The outcome may determine when a new bill could come together

How eager Democratic and Republican negotiators are to reboot talks and hammer out an agreement on a new stimulus proposal could have everything to do with who wins what. A shift in the political majority of the House of Representatives or the Senate — or both — could either bolster the current members or sour them to work on a deal. The same goes for the presidency. 

“The motivation level on both sides will depend on how the election comes out,” said Senate Republican Whip John Thune, The Hill reported Oct. 30.

The majority party could keep or drop a stimulus payment

While there’s a bipartisan commitment to some sort of economic stimulus, there are also several forms that could take. For example, a large package could pass that includes a new stimulus check, money for testing and school reopening and the like. Or, a much narrower bill to bring targeted aid to programs considered critical could make it through before the inauguration, which might mean that a separate stimulus package could potentially come in early 2021. Right now we have to wait and see.

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


Results could decide when a bill with a stimulus check has a chance to pass

Senators, Representatives and President Donald Trump have all said they want to pass another stimulus bill after the election. But exactly when after the election is the question. There are two time periods of note. The first is the “lame duck” session from Nov. 4 to Jan. 19. The other is after the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20.

McConnell said Oct. 30 that he favors working on more relief after Jan. 20. Trump has promised “a tremendous stimulus package immediately after the election,” if Republicans sweep Congress and the presidency. Pelosi wants “a clean slate” if Biden wins the presidential election. The new term of Congress convenes on Jan. 3, which could also change the political makeup of the Senate and the House of Representatives, a shift that could affect whether a certain bill is supported or opposed.

Read more: Would you use your second check like these people?

Election results will influence the timeline to send a check

Once again, there are two issues to consider when we think of how soon the IRS could send out a second stimulus check. The first is that the makeup of the incoming Congress and presidency could either buoy current leaders or potentially cause them to dig in their heels until the official swearing in of the new term. That might mean a check is approved closer to December, or much later, in January or February.

Then there’s the question of how long it will take for the IRS to mobilize the first wave of stimulus checks, as well as payments for other groups, once a bill allotting more direct payments is approved. Learn more about the five priority groups we identified that help determine when you got your first payment.

A new bill could change stimulus check qualifications multiple ways

Democratic and Republican negotiators both want to make changes to the eligibility requirements from the first stimulus check, but have different ideas about what should change.

For example, the Democratic proposals support bringing certain undocumented immigrants to the US who pay taxes the same $1,200 stimulus check afforded to US citizens at home and abroad, as well as some people living in US territories. They’d also either broaden the definition of a dependent to include college students and older adults, or else approve of $1,000 per child dependent instead of $500 apiece. There may also be changes to some child support situations.

Republican proposals originated the $1,000 allocation per child dependent.

It’s also possible a new bill could clarify if people who are imprisoned are eligible to receive a stimulus check. The issue is under current legal review.

New eligibility rules could get you a larger, or smaller, payment

New qualifications might dictate a new total stimulus check sum for you. We’ve made some calculations to show you how you might be affected. In addition to changes in a bill that could show up in your next direct payment, there may be changes to your life circumstances since last April that could alter the size of a second check, in either direction. For more details, this is how the IRS determines how much money your particular check will bring.

P.S. If the IRS owes you a payment, you need to claim it by Nov. 21

If you’re still waiting for your first stimulus payment, there are several ways to hunt it down for a few distinct groups. 

People who don’t normally file taxes: As many as 9 million people were estimated to be eligible for a first check but didn’t receive it because they needed to register with the IRS — an extra step most people didn’t have to take. The deadline is Nov. 21 and we show you how to register here

Some people with dependents received only a partial payment and are still owed money. The deadline to get that in 2020 is also Nov. 21, and we explain how you can claim it with next year’s taxes.

If you share custody of a child but you aren’t married, you may each be able to receive $500 per child dependent

If you’re a person who’s incarcerated: The ruling on a class-action lawsuit has resulted in the IRS distributing paper forms to prisons, with a deadline of Nov. 4 for eligible inmates to fill out. Online claims can be filed until Nov. 21, though inmates’ access to the internet isn’t widespread and is determined state by state.

For more information about stimulus checks, here’s what to do if you haven’t received your first payment and how to calculate how much money a second check could bring you.

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