Why some people will get the next stimulus check weeks before or after others

October 27, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


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Not everyone gets a stimulus payment at the same time.


Sarah Tew/CNET

If a second stimulus check is finally approved after the election, the IRS could once again use a system of priority groups to issue payments to eligible people, which is what happened after the first stimulus payment was authorized by the CARES Act back in March. Some people are still waiting, though most have received their funds from the first check.

The size of the check you get in the second round might actually increase if you have dependents. We’ll know all of the details for sure once we see the wording of the final stimulus package. The continuing negotiations have yet to produce an agreement, and with Congress in recess, that means we may need to wait until after the Nov. 3 election to see the full text of the latest proposal, assuming it comes together.

“We must come to agreement as soon as possible,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Monday. Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke on Monday about the bill, though the Senate went on recess Monday night until after the election, after confirming Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Read on for an explanation of how these priority groups are determined as well as some plausible schedules for when the IRS could start sending out more stimulus money, based on what we know today. We regularly update this story with new information.

How fast could the IRS send your check? Depends on who you are

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. But that doesn’t mean your stimulus money will arrive a week after a bill is signed into law.

While the goalposts keep moving on when a deal could happen, we’ve kept tabs on some potential dates a bill could pass, and what it means for your check, depending how you’ll get your money. More on that in the next section.

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

Possible dates a second stimulus check could go out

Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Scenario 4
House passes final bill Nov. 23 Nov. 30 Dec. 11 Feb. 1
Senate passes final bill Nov. 24 Dec. 1 Dec. 12 Feb. 2
President signs Nov. 25 Dec. 2 Dec. 13 Feb. 3
First direct deposits issued Week of Dec. 14 Week of Dec. 21 Week of Dec. 28 Week of Feb. 8
First paper checks sent Week of Dec. 21 Week of Jan. 4 Week of Jan. 11 Week of Feb. 15
First EIP cards sent Week of Jan. 5 Week of Feb. 1 Week of Feb. 8 Week of Mar. 15

What do the IRS’ payment groups mean?

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 personal situations 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.

When is the last day my stimulus check could 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.

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 didn’t 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 get 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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