How fast your stimulus check arrives depends on 3 main things. Here’s when you could expect it – CNET

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More stimulus money could be headed your way before the end of March. Here’s everything we know.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Americans have been hit hard this week, from new jobless claims rising this week (PDF) to a severe freeze that’s shut off heat and water in some areas, delaying COVID-19 vaccination for millions. Now, passing a new $1.9 trillion stimulus package, and the third stimulus check for up to $1,400 per person included in it, has become even more urgent. 

We know that the House of Representatives plans to pass the bill by the end of Februarybarreling past Republican opposition on its way through the Senate and onto President Joe Biden’s by mid-March. Even that deadline to approve a new stimulus check could be difficult to meet, with the timeline potentially sloshing over into the following week if there’s a disagreement over details contained in the bill. The House Budget Committee will begin its markup of the bill on Feb. 22.

The timeline for passing a bill is just one piece of the puzzle for when you could personally see your next stimulus check. Another is how long it could take the IRS time to begin calculating the stimulus payments and a third is which payment group you’d be in to receive it. We map out possible dates and explore questions about the arrival of a third check during 2020 tax season below, so read on for more details. This story was recently updated.

Stimulus payment timeline: The important dates to keep an eye on

The House of Representatives is expected to pass the first iteration of the new stimulus package by next weekend, before sending it over to the Senate. There, it could pick up amendments before passing (which is expected to happen like this) before the House votes again and it’s sent to Biden to sign.

While we can’t say for sure when a bill would pass, we have a pretty good idea if it all goes according to plan. We also suggest dates if negotiations slips a week while finalizing the bill. 

The chart below also suggests when the IRS could potentially start sending the next check to different payment groups (direct depositphysical checks and EIP cards), based on how quickly it turned around the previous check. However, the IRS is also dealing with tax returns, and there’s a new Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, at the helm. It could take weeks for the IRS to process every group’s funds, so consider these dates a starting point, and read on for more details. We’ll refresh these dates as the situation evolves.

When could the next stimulus check possibly arrive?

Stimulus check passes Congress Friday, March 12 Monday, March 22
Stimulus bill signed into law Sunday, March 14 Tuesday, March 23
First direct deposit check sent Week of March 22 Week of March 29
First paper checks sent Week of March 29 Week of April 5
First EIP cards sent Week of April 5 Week of April 12
Claims for missing stimulus money open May 3 May 3

Which stimulus payment group you could be in and why it matters

The way you get your stimulus money could help determine when you get your stimulus money. Direct deposit recipients typically get their stimulus checks faster, as evidenced by the first two rounds of payments. But both times there have been issues involving deposits going to temporary accounts, which were rejected by banks.

The IRS told CNET in January that some people who received a physical check or EIP card the first time may get paid by the other method the second time around. And, anecdotally, we’ve heard of people who received direct deposit payments the first time finally getting an EIP card in the mail — and not an electronic bank transfer — two weeks after the IRS tool said the payment was issued.

Our recommendation is to make sure you have direct deposit set up with the IRS as part of your 2020 tax return, if you ordinarily file taxes. We also suggest you attempt to file them quickly, so you’re set with your most recent financial information.

The other payment groups loosely defined (by us) include Social Security beneficiaries, who received payments a different way the first time if they’re part of the SSI or SSDI programs, and people with more complex scenarios that could lead to potential issues or holdups receiving their money. People in different child support situations have been one example, and so have people who are incarcerated, as well as those with complex citizenship scenarios.


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Stimulus check No. 3: What you need to know

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How fast could you get the third stimulus check?

In fewer than three weeks from the date the second stimulus bill passed in December, the IRS and Treasury sent about 147 million payments. That was a tremendously fast turnaround. Back in March, it took the IRS 19 days after the CARES Act passed before the Treasury and IRS issued the first round of those $1,200 checks, out of a total of about 160 million payments. 

In both cases, delivery didn’t always go smoothly. Some people reported they received EIP cards from the second payment two weeks after the date the IRS tool said it had shipped. (If you didn’t get yours, you have to claim it as part of tax season 2020.)

There was also a notable direct deposit error as a result of the IRS’ rush to get payments delivered and people who didn’t get their payment may now have to wait weeks or months for their second checks. But the scenario suggests that if the protocols are in place, the IRS could theoretically ship out third stimulus checks within days and weeks, rather than weeks and months. Tax season, however, could throw a big wrench into the gears — more below.

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How you get your second stimulus check could influence how soon your payment arrives.


Sarah Tew/CNET

How tax season might affect your third stimulus payment

Since the third stimulus check is likely to drop in the middle of tax season (taxes are due April 15), the IRS may have to calculate your total based on the most recent tax filing it has. That would be your 2020 taxes if you file early, or 2019 if the check is ready before your tax return is. This could also disqualify some from getting a third stimulus payment. (Learn more about some of the stimulus check exceptions and catches here.)

If you’re owed money, you might have to wait a year to claim it, until you file your 2021 taxes in 2022, according to the latest proposal.

By mid-March, tens of millions of Americans may have already received their tax refunds, which could make it tricky for the IRS to straighten out problems or redact refunds after issuing. 

Could a third stimulus check arrive sooner than the second one did?

There may be a few things you can do to help speed up receipt of a third payment, assuming it happens. For example, signing up for direct deposit with your 2020 tax return would put you in the priority category for a third stimulus payment. 

And if you’ve moved recently, tell the IRS and USPS. Here are our other suggestions for how people can make it more likely to get their second checks faster. Note that there could be some changes to qualifications that may not apply to a possible third stimulus check.

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The first two stimulus checks were nominally sorted by different payment groups, and one had a clear advantage over the others.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Would the IRS have another deadline for sending out payments?

The Jan. 15 deadline set for the second stimulus check was written into the text of the bill without explanation. It isn’t immediately clear if the bill text would adopt another cutoff in the future, or if that was a one-time consideration that took into account the IRS’s overlapping need to process stimulus checks and prepare for the 2020 tax season. Last year, the April 15 tax date was extended to July 15.

The two overlap with the second stimulus check in that anyone who didn’t receive all or part of their second payment must claim it as part of the IRS’ Recovery Rebate Credit on their tax return — even if they have nonfiler status and aren’t typically required to file taxes.

What do different groups of people need to know about stimulus checks?

Stimulus checks aren’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all situation. Here are our guides for:

Here’s everything you need to know about stimulus checks, including what to do if you run into problems with either of the first two payments.