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Relief bill checks already showing up

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You may want to accept your $600 relief check or more as a much-needed post-Christmas gift - even though the amount is roughly half of what the first round of stimulus checks provided. The relief/stimulus checks are already appearing in bank accounts for many Americans, The payments are part of a $900 billion pandemic relief package that was approved in Congress in December.

This current round provides $600 per adult in a household, and $600 per child, which is up from $500 in the spring but like the first round of stimulus payments, an age limit is in place and parents aren't getting the extra $600 for dependents who are 17 and older; and there is no cap on the number of children a household can claim.

The majority of Americans don't have to do anything to receive their payments. Checks were sent automatically via direct deposit to eligible Americans who filed tax returns in 2018 and 2019. Paper checks were mailed to Americans who did not have a bank account or for whom the federal government did not have direct deposit information.

Money is being given out to consumers in three different ways: Direct deposit into bank accounts, the mailing of paper checks and via new and existing government-related debit cards, so don't toss out a new blue Visa debit card if one suddenly shows up in the mail. For Social Security and other beneficiaries who received the first round of payments via Direct Express, they will receive this second payment the same way.

Not everyone qualifies for the relief check, including many students, immigrants who don't have a Social Security number, some elderly and disabled people, and high-wage earners.

The size of the benefit is reduced for those earning more than $75,000, or $150,000 per married couple. The amount will decrease by $5 for every $100 of income above those thresholds, phasing out entirely at $87,000 for individuals and $174,000 for couples.

Eligible individuals who did not receive an Economic Impact Payment this year will be able to claim it when they file their 2020 taxes in 2021. The deadline to register online for direct deposit in 2020 already passed and the tool is closed.

Also, there is no chance the checks will go up to $2,000 after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Democrats' initial attempt to approve increased payments.

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