Second stimulus check delay: When your payment could come now, why Jan. 15 matters – CNET


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

The second stimulus check is already delayed, and that changes everything. We’ll explain. But first, this is important to know. After Congress authorized a new COVID-19 relief bill with a second stimulus check for up to $600 per person this past Monday night, President Donald Trump was expected to sign it. Instead, he sharply criticized the $600 upper limit and made it clear he wanted Congress to raise the amount to $2,000 per person.

Although Trump reportedly had possession of the nearly 5,600-page bill on Christmas Day, (it combines $900 of stimulus aid with $1.4 trillion to fund the government in 2021), he was said to be golfing with Sen. Lindsey Graham, before he again called on Congress to increase the $600 second stimulus check to $2,000. Without a bill, government programs to send emergency unemployment money and an eviction ban will end on or before Dec. 31.

The pause on turning the bill into law complicates an already short deadline for the second stimulus check. 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 payments within the three week window, and would have to claim their money a different way — which is bound to take longer.

We’ll explain more below, and also worked out some dates your next direct payment could arrive. (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 deliver 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, 2021 so important?

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.

How long could it take to receive a 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

However, after Jan. 15, you will have to claim any money the IRS owes you with your tax filing in 2021. That could further delay your stimulus check, since the timing would hinge on:

  • When you file your 2020 taxes — the deadline could be April 15, unless you file for an extension.
  • How long it takes the IRS to process your tax return, which may also include your second stimulus check.
  • If there are any complications that arise in your specific scenario that could further delay your check.

We’ll keep our eye on the situation, which is constantly evolving. Here are the latest second stimulus check updates and here’s how you can calculate your estimated total now for a $600 per person maximum.