November 24, 2020
What's an EIP card and will you get one instead of a second stimulus check or direct deposit?

Second stimulus check: How soon could the IRS send it before the end of 2020?


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The IRS sent the first stimulus check to different groups first.


Angela Lang/CNET

President-elect Joe Biden has his own stimulus plan that includes direct payments to Americans, but we still have to await the passage of new stimulus legislation in Congress to know when we’ll actually see a second stimulus check. The Senate reconvened on Monday and the House of Representatives will be back on Nov. 16.

Once more stimulus aid is authorized, it’s expected that payments of up to $1,200 will be sent out to people who the IRS considers an adult. Interestingly, the delivery of stimulus payments will happen in a de-facto priority order over the course of weeks or even months, likely starting with people who set up direct deposit, then through paper checks and next to people who are paid via an EIP card. There may be more groups besides. Unfortunately, some people won’t get any stimulus money at all

With that in mind, we’ve sketched out some possible timelines that will give you an idea of when you personally might see payment if you do qualify. You can also consult CNET’s stimulus calculator to generate estimates for your total check, (we even have a formula for you to follow if a certain rule changes). For more help, follow these steps if you think the IRS owes you a full or partial check (you have to file by Nov. 21) and these tips if you think your check is missing. This story updates often.

When you could get a new stimulus check: Our current guesses 

These dates, which are speculative, show you when you might see a check — if a bill becomes law after the Nov. 3 election and before or after Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, including Dec. 11, the deadline for Congress to pass the next federal budget.

Read moreNobody can take your stimulus check away, right? Not quite

One important note is the speed at which the first checks might arrive. In August, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said it would take about a week to process the first payments. “I can get out 50 million payments really quickly. A lot of it into people’s direct accounts,” he said

But that doesn’t necessarily mean your stimulus money will arrive a week after a bill goes live.

Possible dates a second stimulus check could go out

Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Scenario 4
House passes final bill Dec. 11 Feb. 1 Mar. 1 Apr. 5
Senate passes final bill Dec. 12 Feb. 2 Mar. 2 Apr. 6
President signs Dec. 13 Feb. 3 Mar. 3 Apr. 7
First direct deposits issued Week of Dec. 28 Week of Feb. 8 Week of Mar. 8 Week of Apr. 12
First paper checks sent Week of Jan. 11 Week of Feb. 16 (Feb. 15 is President’s Day) Week of Mar. 15 Week of Apr. 19
First EIP cards sent Week of Feb. 8 Week of Mar. 15 Week of Apr. 12 Week of May 10

Why can’t the IRS just send all stimulus checks at once?

The IRS has so far sent money to at least 160 million people three ways, starting with people the federal government has direct deposit information for. Some people with more complicated personal situations are still waiting for their checks or even for catch-up payments. This creates a de facto priority order that could result in some Americans receiving their checks days or even weeks before others. 

Read moreEstimate the size of your check with our stimulus calculator

The IRS has said it can deliver 5 million to 7 million paper stimulus checks a week, starting with people whose AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) is less than $20,000, and then moving to people whose AGIs are progressively larger, according to the Government Accountability Office.

We expect the IRS will adopt roughly the same system for sending out a second stimulus check in 2020 or 2021 as it did with the first stimulus check, which was approved in March as part of the CARES Act.


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Next stimulus checks: What to expect



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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.

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 who didn’t 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.

Millions of people are still waiting on their first check

While over 160 million Americans have received their stimulus checks, the IRS is still trying to track down millions of people who may be owed money, including for dependents.

If you think this situation applies to you, you may be able to claim your missing check by Nov. 21. This includes people who didn’t receive $500 allotted for their dependents, some people who are involved in child-support situations and non-filers who may be owed a stimulus check (including older adults or people who receive SSI or SSDI). Otherwise, you may need to claim a catch-up payment or error adjustment as part of your 2020 federal tax return.

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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

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 people who are incarcerated and didn’t receive the first stimulus check — or who received it and were compelled to return the money.

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. The IRS has said it will continue to send payments through Dec. 10, 2020, according to the GAO.



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