What’s happening with a second stimulus check? We’ll tell you.

Angela Lang/CNET

The road to a second stimulus payment has seen plenty of twists and turns in the news. It can get hard to follow from day to day. We wanted to keep it simple for you, from the latest in ongoing negotiations (more below) to the top things to know about where the bill stands, when you’ll get it and what the ins and outs of eligibility might be.  

As Election Day approaches, here are the eight key takeaways to know, including where the bill stands today, how quickly you could get a second stimulus check and how those stimulus payments are treated on your federal income taxes. This story updates often.


High unemployment rates and a faltering economy underscore the need for more aid.

Angela Lang/CNET

Thursday is a big day for stimulus checks

The House of Representatives could possibly vote on a revised stimulus bill with a stimulus check Thursday, which could include $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits and aid for airlines and restaurants. The House’s vote today is on the back burner in case negotiations between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin break down. 

If the talks are successful, they could yield a different, bipartisan bill both chambers would then vote on. If talks aren’t successful, this new package, a revision of May’s HEROES Act, would likely pass the House, but not the Senate.

Both parties want you to have a new check for up to $1,200

There’s strong bipartisan support to provide another direct payment to people who qualify (more on that below). Republican and Democratic lawmakers and President Donald Trump all say they want a solution that includes a second stimulus check, among other measures in the relief bill, such as enhanced unemployment benefits.

Provisions for a second check have been part of three proposals since the CARES Act passed in March, one authored by Democrats and two by Republicans.

The IRS could accelerate the process of getting out checks

The IRS and Treasury Department sent the first round of stimulus payments to recipients within 19 days. Mnuchin has said he could send them much faster this time, once new legislation is signed.

“I could get out 50 million payments really quickly” and start making payments a week after a bill is signed, he said in August. We’ve mapped out how quickly a new check could arrive.

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You won’t pay taxes on stimulus relief money

The IRS doesn’t consider stimulus money to be income, and a payment you get this year will not reduce your refund in 2021 or increase the amount you owe when you file your 2020 tax return. You also won’t have to repay part of your check if you qualify for a lower amount in 2021. The IRS said if you didn’t receive everything you were owed this year, you can claim it as a credit on your 2020 federal income tax return by filing in 2021. Here’s everything to know about stimulus checks and taxes.

Eligibility rules could shift to your advantage

While we think a second stimulus check would largely follow the same guidelines as the first, eligibility requirements are subject to change. It might even benefit your family, if a new stimulus bill redefines who counts as a qualifying dependent.

Other notes on eligibility:

The IRS has a strategy for who receives their check in what order

With the first check, the IRS and the Treasury Department sent checks three ways: direct deposit, physical checks and prepaid EIP cards. According to the most recent numbers from the Treasury Department (from June), this is how the nearly 160 million payments break down:

  • Direct deposit: 75%, or 120 million payments
  • Paper check: 22%, or 35 million payments
  • Prepaid EIP debit card: 3%, or 4 million payments

It’s expected you’ll receive your money fastest with direct deposit, followed by the check and then the EIP card. Read more about priority groups here. The IRS automatically picks the payment method, but is likely to reopen its portal that lets people register for direct deposit if new legislation passes.

We already think we know how much money you may get

If you’re still waiting for your first payment or are looking for an estimate of how much a second check could include, you can use our stimulus check calculator to get an idea for how much you, your family and your dependents could expect to receive, especially if qualifications shift with another stimulus check. Our calculator tool doesn’t retain your personal details in any way. 


Less than a quarter of eligible recipients received their payment as a check in the mail.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Payment details can get complicated

When and if a second stimulus check does arrive, the details will require some unraveling. While some situations are straightforward, other complications about you and your dependents could make it unclear if you’re eligible, the size of a check you should expect and when it’s coming. Fringe cases abound. 

For example:

There’s much more to know about other government payments during the pandemic. Here’s what you need to know about a possible interest check from the IRS, the $300 federal unemployment benefit and the administration’s payroll tax cut



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