Second stimulus check delay: When it might 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

Congress authorized a new COVID-19 relief bill with a second stimulus check for up to $600 per person on Monday, but the package remains in question after President Donald Trump implied he wouldn’t sign the finished bill unless the stimulus payment amount was raised from $600 to $2,000 per person.

Even before Trump’s opposition arose, the second stimulus check faced a short deadline — the language in the stimulus bill requires the IRS to send out new payments by Jan. 15. But with such a tight timeline, tens of millions of people likely wouldn’t receive their second stimulus check within the three week window. They’d have to claim their money a different way, which would take even longer (which we’ll explain further).

Anything is possible at this point, but if a bill does become law next week or after, the delay would impact more people waiting to receive their second stimulus check. An additional amendment to the bill’s language could theoretically be made in the 11th hour, but that hasn’t entered the public conversation. We did, however, work out some dates your next direct payment could arrive, if that doesn’t happen — see our chart below. (Meanwhile, here’s how to estimate your stimulus check payment and what could happen with a third stimulus check in 2021.) This story has been updated with more details.

How fast could the IRS start sending the next stimulus payment?

If Trump relents and signs the new stimulus bill into law, the IRS and Treasury could send the first batch of payments via direct deposit as soon as a week later, compared with the 19 days it took to set up the online tools and schedule distribution of the first stimulus check.

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

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

Why is Jan. 15, 2021important again?

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 who will get their second stimulus check by 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.