December 4, 2020
What's an EIP card and will you get one instead of a second stimulus check or direct deposit?

Stimulus check delivery: How long would you personally have to wait once a payment’s approved?


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


Angela Lang/CNET

Lawmakers are running out of time to strike a deal on the next economic relief package before the end of 2020 and the status of negotiations continues to be fraught. We’re still more than two months away from Inauguration Day. After that, President-elect Joe Biden‘s stimulus plan — which includes a second stimulus check — could potentially see more energy behind it even if a smaller bill passes before the end of the year. So what does that mean for your next payment?

There are two main influencing factors: when the IRS can send the first checks and where in the priority list you fit. Based on the first stimulus payment, we believe that the IRS would send out payments of up to $1,200 to eligible people whom the IRS considers adults over the course of weeks or even months. People who set up direct deposit would likely receive money first, then paper checks and EIP debit cards woud go out. Some people won’t qualify for another round of stimulus money at all.

The timeline for when stimulus checks will be sent out depends on the authorization date — we’ve sketched out a few scenarios below, and you can also estimate the amount you might get with CNET’s stimulus calculator. If the IRS owes you a full or partial check from the first round, you have until Nov. 21 to file a claim. Follow these steps if you think your first stimulus check went missing. This story is updated regularly.

When will I receive a new stimulus check?

These speculative dates show you when you might see a check — if a bill becomes law before or after Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, and bearing in mind 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 about 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 would arrive a week after a bill went 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

Can’t the IRS just send out all the stimulus payments at once? 

No. To date, the IRS has 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 adjusted gross income, or AGI 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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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 payment weeks after the first direct deposit transfers take place.

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 people and how to contact the IRS to report a missing, lost or stolen check.

Why millions of Americans are still waiting for their first stimulus payment

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 nonfilers who may be owed a stimulus check (including older adults and 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.

money-dollar-bills-cash-stimulus-taxes-covid-coronavirus-america-7018

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, according to the GAO.



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