National

Treasury has sent about 90 million stimulus payments

FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2020, file photo, a person passes the office of the California Employment Development Department in Sacramento, Calif. Some Americans are receiving tax forms saying they owe money on unemployment benefits they never received. The notices from state governments could be a sign of the extent of identity theft in the nation's state-run unemployment systems. Unemployment benefits are taxable, so government agencies must send a tax form to people who received them. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)

(CNN) — About 90 million stimulus payments, totaling more than $242 billion, have been sent as of Wednesday, the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service said.

That likely covers more than half of the households eligible for this third round of payments, which were included in the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill signed into law by President Joe Biden less than a week ago.

A majority of this first batch of payments was sent via direct deposit and all of those recipients will have access to the funds Wednesday, the agencies said.

The government has also mailed roughly 150,000 paper checks in the mail.

More batches of payments will go out in the coming weeks through direct deposit, paper checks and prepaid debit cards.

No action is required for most people to receive the money. Social Security recipients and those who receive Veteran Affairs benefits should also get the money automatically even if they don’t file taxes.

People can check the status of their payments using the IRS’s Get My Payment tool online.

Who gets a payment?

The payments are worth up to $1,400 per person and are expected to reach 85% of households, according to the White House.

Families will receive an additional $1,400 per dependent, so a couple with two children could receive up to $5,600. Unlike prior rounds, families will now receive the additional money for adult dependents over the age of 17.

The full amount goes to individuals earning less than $75,000 of adjusted gross income, heads of households (like single parents) earning less than $112,500 and married couples earning less than $150,000. But then the payments gradually phase out as income goes up.

Lawmakers narrowed the scope of the payments this time so that not everyone who received a previous check will be sent one now. It cuts off individuals who earn at least $80,000 a year of adjusted gross income, heads of households who earn at least $120,000 and married couples who earn at least $160,000 — regardless of how many children they have.

On what year are the income limits based?

The new income thresholds will be based on a taxpayer’s most recent return. If they’ve already filed a 2020 return by the time the payment is sent and it has been processed, the IRS will base eligibility on their 2020 adjusted gross income. If not, it will be based on the 2019 return or the information submitted through an online portal set up last year for people who don’t usually file tax returns.

If your 2019 income was less than your pay in 2020, you will not owe back any money. But if your income fell in 2020, filing your tax return now — before the payments go out — may mean you’ll get a bigger check.

Reaching those that need it the most

Most people receive the payments automatically, but there are many who missed out — for a variety of reasons. An estimated 8 million eligible people didn’t get the first round of payments that were delivered last year.

Many of these people have very low incomes and are not normally required to file tax returns. Last year, the IRS set up an online portal where they could register for the money.

At this time, the IRS does not have plans to reopen the portal. Instead, officials are encouraging people to file 2020 tax returns. Low-income people can use the agency’s free file option.

MORE STORIES