November 25, 2020
Want your second stimulus check faster? Do these things now, not later

Want your second stimulus check faster? Do these things now, not later


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Speed up your payment by making sure you have everything in order before a second stimulus bill is passed.


Sarah Tew/CNET

With the election behind us, there’s still hope for a second stimulus check to pass before the end of the year, and before President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration. Until Congress can agree on a final version of a bill, we won’t know if it would contain a second stimulus check of up to $1,200, who would qualify or would not be eligible to receive it. We also don’t know when that payment would get sent out. But there are several things you should check on in the meantime so that if and when a second payment is approved, you’ll be able to get it as quickly and easily as possible. 

If you changed your address or banking status, didn’t file a tax return in 2018 or 2019, or have outstanding child support payments — it’s possible that your second stimulus check could be slowed down. Here are a few things you should look to fix before a bill gets passed. (You can also check out CNET’s guides on how stimulus checks work if you receive SSI or SSDI, if you have dependents and if you’re over age 65 or retired. And you can use our tool to help you calculate how much stimulus money you could get.) 

Change your address with the IRS if you moved

If you moved to a new address after filing your 2019 tax return (or any time during the coronavirus pandemic), you need to do two things to make sure your stimulus check can reach you by mail: tell the USPS where you went, and inform the IRS as well

You need to do this even if your new location is temporary — you can always update it if you move again. Even if your first check came through direct deposit (which means your second check likely would, too), you still want to make sure your address is updated so that you receive the IRS’ letter verifying when it sent your payment. If the letter arrives, but your funds do not, you’d know you have an issue to resolve.

To change your address with USPS, visit usps.com/move. To do so with the IRS, you have three options: fill out Form 8822, change your address by phone, or notify the IRS in writing at “the address where you filed your last return” by giving your full name, your old and new addresses, your Social Security number, individual taxpayer identification number or employer identification number, and your signature. (Find more detailed instructions on how to change your address to receive your stimulus check here.)


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Update your banking status

If your banking status changes, it could hold up receipt of your stimulus payment. Black Americans and other people of color are more likely to be “unbanked” than white Americans, according to an analysis by the think tank Urban Institute. People who identify as white and whose incomes were above the poverty line were more likely to have received their first stimulus check by the end of May than people who identify as Black, Hispanic or below the poverty line, the analysis found, because the first wave of payments went to people who had their bank account information on file with the IRS. 

Several large banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, now offer more affordable checkless bank accounts as part of a government-backed effort to help people enter the banking system. 

A second check is likely to arrive the same way a first check did. If you’re a person without a bank account and your first payment came in the mail, either by check or EIP card, a second is likely to come in the same way. 

Consider signing up for direct deposit 

If you do have a bank, you can use the IRS Get My Payment online service to set up direct deposit for your stimulus payment, as well as find out the status of your check and see if anything is holding the payment up. The deadline to sign up for direct deposit for your first check has passed, but would likely reopen when and if a second check happens. 

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Keeping your child support payments on time will make it more likely that you keep all of your stimulus check.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Didn’t file taxes in 2019 or 2019? Fill out this IRS form

People who earned below the threshold to be required to file federal income tax returns in 2018 or 2019 did not get a stimulus check unless they completed an online nonfilers form for the IRS (this group includes low-income families with children and a disproportionate number of Black people and people of color). 

If your first check is still missing, you must fill out that form before Nov. 21 at 12 p.m. PT/3 p.m. ET to claim your missing money — or missing money for your dependents, if you only received a partial check — in order to get the payment before tax season 2021. (You can use our calculator tool to estimate how much you may have been eligible to receive.) You should also fill out the nonfilers form so that the IRS has your information on file if a second check is approved.

Take care of child support payments

If you owe more than $150 in overdue child support (called arrears), your state may reserve the right to garnish some or all of your first stimulus check, based on how much you owe. This would likely be the case if a second stimulus check is passed, too. If possible, you should pay any overdue child support as quickly as you can to make sure you get your full stimulus check, as well as possibly payment for your child. 

If you’re owed child support, you may receive money garnished from your child’s other parent, though it may take a while to get to you after it is processed by the state. Find out more about how child support impacts stimulus checks here

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Are all your affairs in order before a new check is decided? Now’s the time to act.


Angela Lang/CNET

Get your tax paperwork in order 

If you missed the extended deadline to file your 2019 taxes (which was on Oct. 15), you can still file late. There’s no penalty for doing so if you’re owed a refund, but if you owe the IRS money, you’ll have penalties and interest for any remaining unpaid tax due starting on July 16, 2020, along with a $300 failure-to-file penalty. 

However, if you owe federal taxes or have other federal debts, the IRS will not reduce your stimulus payment to cover those — the only exception being if you owe child support. 

Again, if you were not required to file a 2018 or 2019 tax return because you were below the income limit of $12,200 if you’re under age 65, you should use the IRS nonfilers tool by Nov. 21 to claim a missing payment. 

For those who do file taxes but miss the nonfilers tool deadline, after Nov. 21, you can claim your payment on your 2020 tax return next year. (Important caveat: If you did file a 2019 tax refund, even if you weren’t required to do so, don’t use the nonfilers tool — it’ll just slow down the processing of your return and any refund.)

Triple-check that you’re eligible 

Not everyone will be eligible for a second stimulus check. The general qualifications for receiving a first stimulus check under the March CARES Act would likely hold true for a second.

Here’s who qualified for the first round, based on your total income on your 2018 or 2019 taxes:

  • If you’re a single filer and earn less than $99,000
  • If you file as the head of a household and earn under $146,500
  • If you file jointly with your spouse and earn less than $198,000

However, there are a lot of exceptions and rules depending on your situation (you can find a more detailed list of stimulus check qualifications here). Find out what your stimulus check could look like if you receive SSI or SSDI, if you have dependents, if you’re a young adult or if you’re over age 65 or retired. And you can use our tool to help you calculate how much stimulus money you could get



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