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Three stimulus checks helped many people pay for household expenses during the pandemic. 

Angela Lang/CNET

Another stimulus check isnt looking likely this year, but millions of families will continue to receive enhanced monthly child tax credit payments, with the next check coming in September. Families whove gained a new qualifying dependent (thats tax-speak for had a baby) this year can also expect another stimulus payment for up to $1,400, though it likely wont arrive until next year. 

In addition, the IRS is still sending supplemental plus-up payments for owed stimulus amounts as well as tax refund money on 2020 unemployment compensation. And soon, California residents will see another round of Golden State Stimulus checks for $600 (or up to $1,100). There are also $1,000 thank you payments going to teachers and school staff in several states. 

Congress is currently focusing on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion federal budget package, leaving a fourth economic impact payment off the 2021 shortlist of things to be approved. Yet as households across the US continue to confront financial insecurity and the delta variant surges, theres certainly plenty of support for another stimulus payment -- as evidenced by a petition calling for $2,000 monthly checks thats collected over 2.8 million signatures. 

Well explain the latest on stimulus money and other relief aid below. Heres how to check on your tax refund if you havent received it yet, and what you need to know about the unemployment tax break. We update this story on a regular basis.

Stimulus money you could get this year

Child tax credit payments for families: A temporary expansion of the child tax credit for 2021 sends qualifying families up to $3,600 for each child -- you can calculate your total here. The advance partial payments of up to $300 per dependent, which began this summer, are issued monthly (the next one comes on Sept. 15) through the end of the year, with a final payment in 2022. Parents also have the option of deferring the advance monthly checks and instead getting their payment in the spring. There is no cap on the total credit amount that a family with multiple children can claim. If the credit is more than whats owed in taxes, families will receive the excess amount as a tax refund next year. Plus, low-income families can qualify for the maximum credit. Heres more on child tax credit payment dates and eligibility. 

Additional federal stimulus money: The third stimulus payments of up to $1,400 are still going out in batches to those who are eligible. The IRS is also sending out plus-up payments, which is extra money making up the difference between the stimulus amount you already received (based on your 2019 return) and the amount youre eligible to receive (based on your updated 2020 return). Also, if an individual in your family becomes a dependent in 2021, such as a newborn or foster child, they could also be eligible for a $1,400 payment. According to the tax agency, for any new qualifying dependents to receive the third payment, youd have to claim a Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2021 tax return that youll file in 2022. 

Stimulus payments to Californians: California has approved two rounds of state-level stimulus payments to eligible residents. Called Golden State Stimulus I and II, these payments are intended to support low-income Californians and help those facing hardships due to the pandemic, the state said. Nearly two-thirds of residents qualify for the expanded Golden State Stimulus II, amounting to a one-time payment of $600 (with an additional $500 for eligible families with children), and checks start going out in September. In order to qualify, you must have been a California resident for most of 2020 and still live there, filed a 2020 tax return, earned less than $75,000 (adjusted gross income and wages), have a Social Security Number or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, and your children cant be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer.

Bonus payments to educators: As part of the American Rescue Plan, state and local governments received $350 billion in assistance. Much of that aid will go to schools, with some states deciding to pay their teachers and other school staff a thank you bonus of up to $1,000. The states participating are Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Colorado, Texas and California. Its likely other states will approve similar funds in the future, as they have until 2024 to spend the funds.

Is it possible a 4th stimulus check could still be on the table for 2021?

The short answer is no.

Researchers have found that the first three stimulus checks helped reduce hardships like food insufficiency and financial instability. So far, during the pandemic, eligible adults have received a max of $3,200 and children have received up to $2,500. For struggling families, thats not enough to bounce back from lost wages and benefits. 

Since the American Rescue Plan, the White House has proposed several packages, including the American Jobs Plan and the Build Back Better agenda, but those dont call for more direct aid. President Joe Biden is open to a range of ideas regarding stimulus aid, according to a June statement by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, but that he already put forward what would be the most effective for the short term.

The new scaled-back compromise of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal, which was agreed to in the Senate on July 28, doesnt include anything related to human infrastructure -- it doesnt address child care, improved wages or job training. Instead, those elements could be included in the proposed $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. The Senate took the first step toward approving the broader package through budget resolution, and the House recently followed suit.

Its been some months since Democratic members of the House and Senate argued for another stimulus check. In late March, a group of lawmakers asked Biden to include regular stimulus payments (PDF) in his next stimulus package. In May, several members of the House Ways and Means Committee (PDF) made a similar request. Citing increased poverty and spiraling debt among Americans, they noted that most people spent relief checks on monthly expenses or essentials such as food, utilities, rent and mortgage payments.

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Whats going on with the petition for recurring $2,000 checks?

A Change.org petition that has collected more than 2.8 million signatures calls on Congress to send out a fourth stimulus check of $2,000 for adults and $1,000 for children on a monthly basis for the remainder of the pandemic. The petition notes that the recovery hasnt reached many Americans and points to the need for immediate checks and recurring payments so that we can keep our heads above water. While the Change.org petition is close to becoming one of the most popular on its website, whether it will have any effect is another question.

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The IRS will continue to send stimulus payments until all eligible Americans have received their checks.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Could Congress pass additional relief money?

Though theres plenty we still dont know and much up for debate, there could be additional cash in the pockets of Americans in the following scenarios:

If the child tax credit raise is made permanent: Money from the expanded child tax credit started this summer with monthly payments to millions of lower- and middle-income families with children. In a July 7 speech, Biden called on Congress to extend the expanded child tax credit through 2025. Other aspects of the American Families Plan related to health care costs and medical leave have yet to be negotiated in the upcoming $3.5 trillion Democratic spending plan.

If theres a minimum wage hike: Some senators continue to look for ways to boost the federal minimum wage, which stands at $7.25 per hour. A few proponents want to set the bar at a $15 hourly wage, and others are looking to only go up to $11 an hour. In recent years, many states, localities and businesses have implemented minimum wage increases above the federal level. However, the discussion of a new national rate of $15 an hour has hit a roadblock in recent months, and the likelihood of it being enacted anytime soon is low.

In the meantime, heres what to know about the tax refunds going out for those who received unemployment benefits in 2020 and the future of federal jobless benefits.

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