January 25, 2021
Your second stimulus check might arrive before or after others'. We worked out some possible dates

A second stimulus check could arrive in 5 different waves. Find out which one you’re in


Not everyone gets a stimulus payment at the same time.

Sarah Tew/CNET

One important fact about stimulus checks that wasn’t immediately obvious the first time around is that the IRS sent out the payment according to different priority groups. That means some people received their stimulus money weeks or months before others. While a second stimulus check faces an important make-or-break moment today, the IRS is expected to schedule future payments in a similar way, whether that’s before the Nov. 3 election, or after.

By the end of Tuesday, we’ll know a little more about the timeline for sending out a check. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave White House negotiators a deadline of end of day today to work out the bill’s contents if it’s to have a chance to pass ahead of election day, which takes place in 14 days.

Pelosi continued to express optimism an agreement can be reached before the election. Even if the bill doesn’t pass by Nov. 3, the White House, Senate and House of Representatives have all supported a second stimulus check, leaving reason for some post-election hope. For those who qualify, a new payment is expected to include as much as $1,200 per individual and even more assistance for some families

The exact date a new check would be approved is still up in the air, but we’ve consulted the session calendars for the House of Representatives and Senate to map out four plausible timelines. Beginning from the earliest realistic date, these timelines end with a speculative date after the presidential inauguration, on Jan. 20.

The overall schedule for when payments are sent should remain roughly the same even as the timeline shifts. Keep reading for help in understanding if your stimulus check may show up as part of a first priority group, or if you’ll be waiting a while even after it’s approved. We recently updated this story.

How fast could the IRS send my payment?

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said it would take about a week to process the first payments, when and if another stimulus check is signed into law. “I can get out 50 million payments really quickly. A lot of it into people’s direct accounts,” he said in August. 

We’ve speculated as to some potential dates if a bill becomes law before the Nov. 3 election or after Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, based on current negotiations in Washington. Keep reading for more information. 

Possible dates a second stimulus check could go out

Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Scenario 4
House passes final bill Oct. 26 Nov. 23 Dec. 7 Feb. 1
Senate passes final bill Oct. 27 Nov. 30 Dec. 8 Feb. 2
President signs Oct. 28 Dec. 1 Dec. 9 Feb. 3
First direct deposits issued Week of Nov. 16 Week of Dec. 14 Week of Dec. 21 Week of Feb. 8
First paper checks sent Week of Nov. 30 Week of Dec. 21 Week of Jan. 4 Week of Feb. 15
First EIP cards sent Week of Dec. 21 Week of Jan. 5 Week of Feb. 1 Week of Mar. 15

What are the different payment waves?

The IRS has so far sent money to at least 160 million people three different ways, starting with people who filed for direct deposit. Some people with more complicated scenarios are still waiting for their checks or even for catch-up payments. This creates a de facto priority order that could lead some Americans to receive their checks days or even weeks before others. We expect the IRS will adopt roughly the same system for sending out a second stimulus check in 2020 as it did with the first stimulus check, which was approved in March.

Read moreEstimate the size of your check with our stimulus calculator

Direct deposit recipients: People who already have their direct deposit information on file with the IRS or who provide that info when and if registration opens again should be first in line to receive a stimulus check. An electronic transfer of funds is faster and more efficient, which is why this group largely got their first payment faster.

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


Social Security beneficiaries: With the first stimulus payment, many Social Security beneficiaries who had direct deposit information on file with the federal government received checks in the first week, though not always the first day.

People who get paper checks: The IRS began to mail checks about a week later to those without direct deposit data on file. 

EIP card recipients: Economic Impact Payment debit cards are prepaid Visa cards the IRS sent to about 4 million people starting in mid-May. If the IRS follows the same payment priority order, this group could begin to see their checks weeks after the first direct deposit transfers go out.

People with more complex situations: This category includes people who received a check after June, are still waiting to receive their stimulus payment or did not know they need to complete an extra step. Direct payments will continue through the end of 2020 for some individuals who weren’t part of the previous groups. Here’s what could be holding up the stimulus check delivery for some and how to contact the IRS to report a missing, lost or stolen check.

What is the longest I’d have to wait for my check to arrive?

While we expect most people to get their money sooner, if the first round is any indication, it could still take months for the IRS to send all the checks. Six months after the first stimulus payments went out, the federal agency is still trying to track down millions of people who may be owed money.

And even with the experience of processing roughly 160 million payments in the IRS’ back pocket, some people would probably need to clear a few hurdles to receive their money. Here are common roadblocks that held up the first stimulus check.


There’s hope that the IRS could speed up delivery of a second check, if it’s authorized.

Angela Lang/CNET

Where can I find more help while I wait?

If you’re still waiting on the first round of payments, you can track the status of your stimulus check, learn how to report your no-show check to the IRS and find possible reasons why your stimulus check still hasn’t arrived.

And here are resources about coronavirus hardship loans and unemployment insurance, what you can do if you’ve lost your job, what to know about evictions and late car payments, if you could receive two refund checks from the IRS and how to take control of your budget.

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