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How fast could the IRS send your second stimulus check? That depends on who you are

How the congressional calendar -- plus your priority group -- can forecast how long you may have to wait for another check to come.

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How fast could the IRS get you another check?

Sarah Tew/CNET

While economic rescue talks have moved to the back burner until after the Nov. 3 election, the need for additional federal financial aid remains just as acute for cash-strapped Americans, who say they would largely use a second check to pay down personal debt and buy essential goods. If, following the election, Congress does pass another relief bill that includes a stimulus check for qualifying individuals and families, who could expect to see their checks soon after a deal? And who might have to wait?

That depends. As it did with the first stimulus payment, the IRS is expected to organize the payment schedule by groups of people, based on how you'll receive the money. At this point, the outcome of the election -- who controls the White House and both chambers of Congress -- could move the timeline for an agreement forward or back.

But based on what we know, we can speculate who would receive a second stimulus check first, from the period after the election to after the presidential inauguration, along with an explanation of those priority groups. This story is frequently updated.

Read more: Inside presidential candidate Joe Biden's stimulus plan

When will a new stimulus check arrive? Some post-election guesses 

With talks shifting to after the election, we've mapped out some potential dates a bill could pass, and what it means for your check, depending how you'll get your money. (More on that in the next section.)

These dates, which are speculative, show you might possibly see a check if a bill becomes law in the period after the Nov. 3 election and before or after Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, including Dec. 11, the deadline for Congress to pass the next federal budget.

One important note is the speed at which the first checks would arrive. In August, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said it would take about a week to process the first payments. "I can get out 50 million payments really quickly. A lot of it into people's direct accounts," he said. But that doesn't necessarily mean your stimulus money will arrive a week after a bill goes live.

Possible dates a second stimulus check could go out


Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Scenario 4
House passes final bill Nov. 30
Dec. 11
Feb. 1
Mar. 1
Senate passes final bill Dec. 1
Dec. 12
Feb. 2
Mar. 2
President signs Dec. 2
Dec. 13
Feb. 3
Mar. 3
First direct deposits issued Week of Dec. 21
Week of Dec. 28
Week of Feb. 8
Week of Mar. 8
First paper checks sent Week of Jan. 4
Week of Jan. 11
Week of Feb. 15
Week of Mar. 15
First EIP cards sent Week of Feb. 1
Week of Feb. 8
Week of Mar. 15
Week of Apr. 12

What do the IRS' priority groups mean?

The IRS has so far sent money to at least 160 million people three ways, starting with people the federal government has direct deposit information for. Some people with more complicated personal situations are still waiting for their checks or even for catch-up payments. This creates a de facto priority order that could result in some Americans receiving their checks days or even weeks before others. 

Read moreEstimate the size of your check with our stimulus calculator

We expect the IRS will adopt roughly the same system for sending out a second stimulus check in 2020 or 2021 as it did with the first stimulus check, which was approved in March.

Direct deposit recipients: People who already have their direct deposit information on file with the IRS or who provide that info when and if registration opens again should be first in line to receive a stimulus check. An electronic transfer of funds is faster and more efficient, which is why this group largely got their first payment faster.

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Social Security beneficiaries: With the first stimulus payment, many Social Security beneficiaries who had direct deposit information on file with the federal government received checks in the first week, though not always the first day.

People who get paper checks: The IRS began to mail checks about a week later to those without direct deposit data on file. 

EIP card recipients: Economic Impact Payment debit cards are prepaid Visa cards the IRS sent to about 4 million people starting in mid-May. If the IRS follows the same payment priority order, this group could begin to see their checks weeks after the first direct deposit transfers go out.

People with more complex situations: This category includes people who received a check after June, are still waiting to receive their stimulus payment or did not know they need to complete an extra step. Direct payments will continue through the end of 2020 for some individuals who weren't part of the previous groups. Here's what could be holding up the stimulus check delivery for some and how to contact the IRS to report a missing, lost or stolen check.

There are still people who haven't received a check

While over 150 million Americans have received their stimulus checks now, seven months after the first payments went out, the IRS is still trying to track down millions of people who may be owed money, including for dependents.

If you think this situation applies to you, you may be able to claim your missing check by Nov. 21. Some examples include people who didn't receive their allotted $500 for their dependents, some people who are involved in child-support situations and nonfilers who may be owed a stimulus check (including older adults or people who receive SSI or SSDI). Otherwise, you may need to claim a catch-up payment or error adjustment as part of your 2020 federal tax return.

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There's hope that the IRS could speed up delivery of a second check, if it's authorized.

Angela Lang/CNET

If you're a US citizen abroad or live in a US territory and didn't receive a check as expected, you may also need to investigate. And a new ruling in California may bring hope for people who are incarcerated and didn't receive the first stimulus check, or who received it and were compelled to return the money.

If you're still waiting on the first round of payments, you can track the status of your stimulus check, learn how to report your no-show check to the IRS and find possible reasons why your stimulus check still hasn't arrived.