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When will a second stimulus check arrive now? Our best post-election guesses

The congressional calendar plus your priority group (yes, it exists) equal some estimates on how long you might have to wait for your check to come.


Not everyone gets a stimulus payment at the same time.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It's official. We'll have to wait until after the Nov. 3 election for a second stimulus check to receive funding. Once it's approved, however, the IRS is expected to send out money in waves according to different qualifying priority groups, which is how the agency delivered the first stimulus payment. In fact, some people are still waiting for that first check, even as a second payment remains under negotiation, along with other aid.

We know some details about the process, like that your second stimulus payment could be bigger if you have dependents and that even more rules will be revealed in the final stimulus package. So what's the strategy for sending out payments and when's the soonest the first checks could come? How long will you have to wait for yours? We'll explain everything we all need to know. This story updates often.

How quickly could the IRS send your check? Depends on who you are

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said it would take about a week to process the first payments, when and if another stimulus check is signed into law. "I can get out 50 million payments really quickly. A lot of it into people's direct accounts," he said in August. But that doesn't mean your stimulus money will arrive a week after a bill goes live.

While the goalposts keep moving on when a deal could happen, we've kept tabs on 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, map out when 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 to pass the next federal budget.

Possible dates a second stimulus check could go out

Scenario 1 Scenario 2 Scenario 3 Scenario 4
House passes final bill Nov. 23
Nov. 30
Dec. 11
Feb. 1
Senate passes final bill Nov. 24
Dec. 1
Dec. 12
Feb. 2
President signs Nov. 25
Dec. 2
Dec. 13
Feb. 3
First direct deposits issued Week of Dec. 14
Week of Dec. 21
Week of Dec. 28 Week of Feb. 8
First paper checks sent Week of Dec. 21
Week of Jan. 4
Week of Jan. 11
Week of Feb. 15
First EIP cards sent Week of Jan. 5
Week of Feb. 1
Week of Feb. 8
Week of Mar. 15

What do the IRS' payment groups mean?

The IRS has so far sent money to at least 160 million people three different ways, starting with people who filed for direct deposit. 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 lead some Americans to receive 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 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.

Now playing: Watch this: Next stimulus checks: What to expect

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.

When is the latest my stimulus check might arrive?

While we expect most people to get their money sooner, if the first round is any indication, it could still take months for the IRS to send all the checks. Six months after the first stimulus payments went out, the federal agency is still trying to track down millions of people who may be owed money.

In some cases, people will need to wait until they receive a tax refund in 2021, especially for catch-up payments and error adjustments. Some examples include people who didn't receive their allotted $500 for their dependents, including some people who pay or are owed child support. There are also nonfilers who may be owed a stimulus check, including older adults or people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance


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 the families of people who are incarcerated and didn't receive the first stimulus check, or who received it and were compelled to return the money.

And even with the experience of processing roughly 160 million payments in the IRS' back pocket, some people would probably need to clear a few hurdles to receive their 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.