December 3, 2020
Your second stimulus check might arrive before or after others'. We worked out some possible dates

A second stimulus check might arrive in 5 different waves. Find out which one you might be in


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Not everyone gets a stimulus payment at the same time.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Here’s a fun fact about stimulus payments: the IRS divides eligible people into priority groups to send out your allotted stimulus money. If you got the first stimulus check, do you know which group you fell into?

Negotiations to approve a second stimulus check may or may not come to a close before the Nov. 3 election. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continues to be optimistic that a deal can be reached before election day. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made his opposition clear on Tuesday, reportedly cautioning the White House not to move forward with Pelosi, The Washington Post was first to report

Even if the bill doesn’t pass by the election, the Senate, House of Representatives and White House have all at one point been in favor of a second direct payment as part of a broader package, so there could be some hope for post-election legislation. A second stimulus check is expected to be worth up to $1,200 and possible additional assistance for some families

The uncertainty makes is hard to keep an exact timeline, but we created an overall schedule for when stimulus checks are sent that should hold fast even as the actual date to close a deal continues to slip and slide. Below, we take a look at four plausible timelines and explain which priority group you could land in if you are eligible to get a second stimulus check. We update this story regularly.

How fast could the IRS send out 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 IRS’ different payment groups?

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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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 to receive my check?

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.

In some cases, people will need to wait until they receive a tax refund in 2021, especially for catch-up payments and error adjustments. Some examples include people who didn’t receive their allotted $500 for their dependents, including some people who pay or are owed child support. There are also non-filers who may be owed a stimulus check, including older adults or people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance

If you’re a US citizen abroad or live in a US territory and didn’t receive a check as expected, you may also need to investigate. And a new ruling in California may bring hope for the families of people who are incarcerated and did not receive the first stimulus check, or who received it and were compelled to return the 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.

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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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