January 26, 2021
Your second stimulus check might arrive before or after others'. We worked out some possible dates

Your second stimulus check might arrive before or after other people’s. We worked out possible dates


Not everyone gets a stimulus payment at the same time.

Sarah Tew/CNET

One of the most fundamental facts about stimulus checks is this: not everyone gets theirs at the same time. That was true for the first check and by all accounts so far it’s likely to be true for the second. Part of what makes the timeline so hard to nail down is the fact that the date the stimulus checks are signed into law is itself a moving target.

The best chance to receive a new direct payment quickly is with the broader economic stimulus package being hotly negotiated in Washington. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Saturday night gave White House negotiators a 48-hour deadline to work out the particulars for the bill if it’s to have a chance at passing before the Nov. 3 election — which is now just over two weeks away. 

By Sunday, Pelosi was “optimistic” about reaching an agreement before the election, but enumerated the issues that still stood in the way. Even if the bill doesn’t pass by Election Day, there’s reason to believe another stimulus bill will arrive at some point: the White House, Senate and House of Representatives have all supported a second stimulus check. A new payment is expected to include up to $1,200 per individual for eligible Americans and even more money for some families

Though we can’t say for certain when a new check would be approved, we’ve sketched out four plausible timelines, based on the current moves in Washington and the session calendars for the Senate and House of Representatives. We start from the earliest realistic date to a speculative date after the inauguration of the next president, on Jan. 20.

The timeline could change — in fact, we expect it to — but the overall schedule for when payments are sent should remain roughly the same, which is important for understanding if your stimulus check could come in the first wave, or one of the last. This story updates often.

Which dates 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, 2021, 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 sent 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

How could someone get their check sooner than I would?

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 is fastest: 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.

Last group: People who received checks 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’s 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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