Second stimulus check: 7 big things to know about a possible new payment – CNET


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

Angela Lang/CNET

After weeks of stops and starts, White House and Democratic negotiators said this week they will return to the table to resume talks on an additional round of economic aid, which could include a second stimulus check. The move comes at time of political upswell that encompasses the upcoming presidential debates and a nomination to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

There are a lot of ins and outs to know, but we’ve skipped the complexities of the stimulus bill to focus on seven of the most important things you need to know about what another stimulus payment could look like for eligible Americans. We update this story often.

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High jobless rates and a wavering economy underscore the need for more aid.

Angela Lang/CNET

1. We’re one step closer to another stimulus check

Thursday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi agreed to restart talks, which have been on hold for over a month despite strong bipartisan support for a second stimulus check and other measures in the relief bill. 

This and Pelosi’s plan to have the House draft another, smaller bill than its Heroes proposal from May, signal a step forward. It’s suggested the House could vote on the new proposal Oct. 2.

2. The IRS could speed up the process to send out checks

It took the IRS and Treasury Department 19 days to send the first round of stimulus payments to recipients. Treasury Secretary Steven 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, Mnuchin said in August.

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3. Eligibility rules could change 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:

4. There’s a method to who receives their check first

To get economic relief money out as quickly as possible to eligible Americans, the IRS and the Treasury Department took several approaches that included direct deposit, physical checks and prepaid EIP cards. According to the most recent numbers from the Treasury Department (in 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

With the IRS continuing to urge people to set up direct deposit to receive payments straight to their bank account, that number could be even higher. It’s expected you’ll receive your money fastest with direct deposit, followed by the check and then the EIP card. The IRS automatically picks the payment method, but is likely to reopen its portal to register for direct deposit if you haven’t already.

5. We already think we know how much money you could pocket

If you’re still waiting for your first payment or are looking for an estimate for 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

6. The fine print can get complicated, fast

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:

7. You don’t pay taxes on the 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.

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