Second stimulus check delay: When it could come now and why Jan. 15 matters – CNET

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Time is once again running out to deliver a second stimulus check for potentially 160 million Americans.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Just when we thought the second stimulus check was hours away from approval, another shift in the ever-changing pursuit of a new COVID-19 relief bill has thrown a $600 direct payment into question. The tangled situation began Tuesday when President Donald Trump objected to the $600 ceiling and implied he wouldn’t sign the finished bill unless it replaced the $600 with an up-to-$2,000 second stimulus check.

The fresh round of direct payments were already on a tight timeline before Trump’s opposition arose. In fact, language in the stimulus bill actually requires the IRS to stick with a Jan. 15 cutoff for sending out new payments. The tens of millions of people who wouldn’t receive a second stimulus check three weeks after the IRS started to send them would need to claim them a different way (more on that below).

So what happens now? Anything is possible. But if the bill passes later than expected, that three-week window would shrink, with more people having to wait longer to receive their second stimulus checks. That is, unless in the 11th hour, an additional amendment to the bill’s language were to be made. Barring that, we’ve mapped out some dates your next direct payments could arrive. (Here’s how to calculate your possible stimulus check payment and what we know about a third stimulus check in 2021.) This story updates often with new information.

When could the IRS start sending new payments now?

If Trump relents and signs the new stimulus bill into law before Dec. 28 — the cutoff for the government funding shutdown — the IRS and Treasury could send the first batch of payments via direct deposit as soon as next week, compared with the 19 days it took to set up the online tools and schedule distribution of the first stimulus check.

On Monday, Mnuchin said the IRS could send money straight to people’s bank accounts quickly: “The good news is [direct deposit] is a very, very fast way of getting money into the economy. Let me emphasize: People are going to see this money at the beginning of next week.”

“Most of these will be direct deposits. We call them ‘checks in the mail,’ but most will be direct deposits,” Mnuchin said. “It will be within three weeks. We are determined to get money in people’s pockets immediately. So that will be within three weeks.” 


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As of last summer, 75% of the first round of stimulus payments were sent straight to people’s bank accounts using direct deposit, the Treasury said, which brings hope for the majority of people to receive their second payment before Jan. 15

In the chart below, we map out a possible payment schedule for the second round of checks, plus a projection if Congress approves a third stimulus check next year, after Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.

Possible dates a second and third stimulus check could go out

Dates for second check Dates for possible third check?
House passes final bill Dec. 21 April 5
Senate passes final bill Dec. 21 April 6
President signs Dec. 28 April 7
First direct deposits issued Week of Jan 4 Week of April 12
First paper checks sent Week of Jan. 11 Week of April 19
First EIP cards sent After filing 2020 tax returns Week of April 26
Recovery Rebate Credit After filing 2020 tax returns Unknown

What does Jan. 15, 2021 have to do with second stimulus checks?

This is the cutoff date in the $900 billion stimulus bill by which time the IRS and US Treasury will stop sending checks as part of this round of delivery. If you don’t receive your full second stimulus check money by Jan. 15, you will need to claim all or part of the missing amount when you file your federal tax returns in 2021. You can also claim any money the IRS still owes you from the first round of payments as part of a Recovery Rebate Credit at that time too.

What about people getting their payments in the mail?

Since the new stimulus bill sets a Jan. 15 deadline for the IRS to send out payments, people who will receive their second stimulus check in the mail — either as a paper check or a prepaid debit card — should look for a payment in the first three weeks of January, Mnuchin said on Monday. According to the Treasury, 22% of the payments as of last summer were made by paper checks and another 3% by prepaid debit cards. After Jan. 15, you will have to claim any money the IRS owes you with your tax filing in 2021.