Republicans have called for a more-targeted approach to a third round of stimulus checks, while Democrats have argued that broad distribution is necessary to cover gaps in other federal programs. Here is a look at the proposals, which differ both on the size of the payment and in who is eligible.

What is President Biden’s proposal on stimulus checks?

President Biden has proposed checks of $1,400 per person as part of his $1.9 trillion aid plan, effectively topping up the $600 payments from December to $2,000. Democrats promised that amount during the Senate campaigns in Georgia that gave them the majority, and Mr. Biden has shown no signs of budging on that.



proposal didn’t specify the income levels at which the checks would start shrinking, and officials said they were open to discussions on that. In the past rounds, the payments began shrinking once adjusted gross income reached $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for married couples. But Democrats in recent days have talked about setting those levels at $50,000 and $100,000.

What are Republicans proposing?

A group of 10 Senate Republicans has proposed scaling back the checks to $1,000 per adult and $500 per dependent adult and child. The Republican plan would reduce the size of the checks for individuals making $40,000 a year or more and phase them out entirely when income reaches $50,000. Married couples with a joint annual income above $80,000 would see smaller checks, going to zero when income reaches $100,000. The plan didn’t specify the phaseout rules for households with children.

What would that mean for households?

The proposals mean that a married couple with two children would receive up to $5,600 from the Democratic plan and $3,000 from the GOP alternative. The Republicans estimate their proposal for the checks would cost $220 billion, less than half the cost of the Democratic plan that the House passed in December.

Ten Republican senators have offered a roughly $618 billion coronavirus-relief plan to counter the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill President Biden outlined after taking office. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains the significant differences between the two proposals. Photo illustration: Laura Kammermann

Would adult dependents be eligible?

In the previous two rounds, adult dependents weren’t eligible for payments. Those include students over age 16 and many disabled adults and elderly people. Democrats would make them eligible for the $1,400 payments. The Republican version would make adult dependents and children eligible for up to $500.

Will eligibility for the stimulus checks be based on 2019 or 2020 income?

The Senate Finance Committee says its plan is to base payments on the most recent year for which the IRS has information at the time of the payment. The IRS will start accepting 2020 tax returns on Feb. 12, and the legislation may not be done until early March.

So people who file their tax returns early could see their payments based on 2020 income while those who don’t might see their payments based on 2019. Those who saw their incomes drop or their family sizes increase in 2020 would thus have an incentive to file quickly. Those who saw their incomes rise to become ineligible would have an incentive to wait to file their tax returns so the payments are based on the 2019 data.

How quickly would the payments be sent?

The IRS has been able to send past rounds of payments within a week or two of the president signing the bill into law. It’s likely to take several weeks before Congress passes this bill. Democrats say they want to finish before the mid-March expiration of expanded unemployment insurance. All of the details will get resolved as the House and Senate write and debate the legislation.

How would these payments help the economy?

According to a Penn-Wharton Budget Model estimate, households in the short term would save about 73% of the money they receive from the direct payments if Mr. Biden’s proposal for $1,400 per person uses the same income thresholds as earlier payments. That savings figure includes paying down debt. Checks more focused on those who lost income would be more likely to be spent, the group said.

What else is in the aid proposals?

The Republican proposal extends a $300 weekly federal unemployment supplement through June. Mr. Biden’s proposal increases the supplement to $400 and extends it through September. Also, the Republican proposal doesn’t provide any aid for state and local governments, while Mr. Biden’s proposal includes $350 billion in aid for state and local governments. Mr. Biden would also expand the child tax credit, turning it into a type of monthly child allowance for many households. You can see a full comparison of the plans here.

Write to Richard Rubin at and Andrew Duehren at

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