Published on March 23, 2020

The average American family is expected to get $1,628 from the most recent coronavirus bill, named the CARES Act, which includes a stimulus plan to send direct payments to individuals.

Analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) estimates that 82% of all families will receive the full amount offered. Only 8% of families, primarily families in higher income brackets, will receive nothing.

How will eligibility for a coronavirus-related direct payment be determined?

Eligibility for the payments depends on income and filing status. Single filers reporting less than $75,000 in adjusted gross income on tax returns receive the full $1,200 check. Married couples earning less than $150,000 will receive $2,400. Some people will also be eligible for an additional $500 for children claimed under the Child Tax Credit.

Income will be assessed based on a taxpayer’s most recent tax return, either 2019 or 2018 for those who have not yet filed for 2019. Income will be determined based on the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) listed on the federal 1040 tax return form. For 2019 returns, AGI is listed in Box 8b. For 2018 returns, AGI is listed in Box 7. Those listed on someone else’s tax return as a dependent are ineligible to receive a stimulus payment. Those without such tax returns but with Social Security benefit statements can use those for eligibility. The payments won't go to nonresident aliens, anyone who is claimed as a dependent, or estates and trusts.

Payouts are based on how much more people earn over those limits. For single taxpayers, 5% is taken out of every dollar over $75,000. Anyone who earned more than $99,000 isn't eligible. The same is true for married couples earning more than $198,000.

How will money from the coronavirus stimulus bill be distributed?

For most people, no action is necessary to receive the payment. Payments will be sent to those who filed taxes for 2018 or 2019 by either direct deposit or check. The IRS is considering sending prepaid debit cards in place of checks. For those that have not filed 2018 or 2019 taxes, the IRS is recommending they do so soon in order to not disrupt receipt of the stimulus payment.

How will payments vary based on income and family type?

A USAFacts analysis of data from the US Census Bureau and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) shows how various family types will receive different payments. The average single taxpayer without kids will get $1,176, while average married taxpayers without kids will get $2,155.

Americans who fall between the 60th percentile and the 80th percentile of income earners—this group earned between $66,000 and $121,000 in income in 2017, according to USAFacts analysis—stand to gain an average of $2,029 from the checks.

Taxes by select income and family groups
Family type Expected average check
All families $1,628
Families earning less
than $8,000 (Bottom 20%)
$1,349
Families earning $8,000 to $33,000
(Second 20%)
$1,551
Families earning $33,000 to $66,000
(Middle 20%)
$1,742
Families earning $66,000 to $121,000
(Fourth 20%)
$2,029
Families earning $121,000 to $745,000
(Top 80 to 99%)
$1,526
Single without kids $1,176
Single with kids $1,455
Married without kids $2,185
Married with kids $2,154
Elderly $1,617

The CRS has noted that since 1975, Congress had approved four similar payments. These past initiatives most benefitted the economy when they focused on spurring spending among lower-income Americans. While this COVID-19 relief proposal targets lower- and middle-income earners, its economic impact depends on if people cash and spend their checks.