Second stimulus check: Here’s how quickly the IRS could send a payment your way


How quickly could the IRS send your money? We have some potential dates.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Between now and mid-December, Congressional legislators have just a handful of days to overcome stark differences and pass another economic rescue package if they want to approve a second round of stimulus check payments before Congress wraps up its term. If the House and Senate do come together on a bill, would the IRS have time to send out payments to qualifying families before 2021? (Here’s who may not qualify at all.)

We worked out what it would take for the IRS to get you a check before the New Year, and how soon you could realistically expect it if Congress waits until President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, 2021 to act. Another direct payment of up to $1,200 per person is just one piece of aid Congress will weigh in the next few weeks. By Dec. 31, remaining coronavirus protections run out for tens of millions Americans. 

If a second stimulus check is left out of the bill, however, here’s how you might be able to still benefit. And if no bill passes at all by the time Biden takes up the presidency, here are the stimulus measures Biden could take.

See our chart below for some possible timelines for a second stimulus check. As a side note, you might be able to receive your second stimulus payment sooner than the first, if you had to wait last time. We update this story often.

Read moreHow big will your next stimulus check be? Calculate your estimate

How quickly could the IRS send a second stimulus payment?

These speculative dates show you when you might see a payment — if a bill becomes law before or after Inauguration Day on Jan. 20.

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. If a check doesn’t arrive until 2021, there will be a new Treasury secretary — President-elect Joe Biden has selected Janet Yellen, the previous chair of the US Federal Reserve, though she would need to be confirmed by the Senate.

Even if the checks were to go out faster the second time by following the existing IRS protocol from the first payment, 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. 4 Feb. 1 Mar. 1 Apr. 5
Senate passes final bill Dec. 5 Feb. 2 Mar. 2 Apr. 6
President signs Dec. 6 Feb. 3 Mar. 3 Apr. 7
First direct deposits issued Week of Dec. 21 Week of Feb. 8 Week of Mar. 8 Week of Apr. 12
First paper checks sent Week of Jan. 4 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. 1 Week of Mar. 15 Week of Apr. 12 Week of May 10

Why couldn’t the IRS deliver all the stimulus payments at once?

By summer, the IRS had sent money to at least 160 million people in 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 moreNobody can take your stimulus check away, right? Not quite

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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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


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.

The IRS will continue to send first payments through December

While the majority of people in line to receive a stimulus check got theirs by the end of July, up until late November, there were still millions of people who were eligible for stimulus money that hadn’t received it. That includes people who didn’t receive $500 allotted for their dependents, some 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). 

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 court ruling has made it possible for millions of people who are incarcerated to get a check, even after the IRS changed its rules to exclude this group.

The Nov. 21 deadline to claim the payment in 2020 has passed, but you’ll be able to claim a catch-up payment or error adjustment during tax season 2021.

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 Government Accountability Office.