When will your third stimulus check arrive? Thanks to new info, we might know now

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How a third payment could be proposed could also affect when it happens.


Sarah Tew/CNET

President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders are eager to get a third stimulus check sent out fast — even if they have to do it without bipartisan support. While there are still lingering questions about the next stimulus check, Biden has indicated they could come in at $1,400 per qualified adult, but not without income restrictions that could affect eligibility and “target” who gets a stimulus check.

There’s also now a clear goal for when Biden’s COVID-19 stimulus package could be signed into law. The calendar is circled for Sunday, March 14, CNN reported, which coincides with the expiration date for benefits like the federal $300 weekly bonus in unemployment insurance. But that date is still a best-case scenario, as Congress prepares for the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump starting Feb. 9. Although the trial is expected to move quickly, it could potentially sideline or otherwise push back Biden’s urgent stimulus agenda.

However, even if Biden signs a bill into law on or before March 14, approving a $1,400 stimulus check, there would still be a gap between the time the IRS gets the green light to the time it arrives in your hands. Some of that could depend on the way your money arrives. We’ll start with the March 14 timeline and map out some possible dates, plus everything that could complicate the situation — like if your third payment arrives in the middle of the 2020 tax season. This story was recently updated.

New stimulus check payment timeline: Best case scenario

We looked at some hypothetical dates that fall within the March 14 timeframe we’ve been hearing about. The chart below highlights a possible timeline for when the next stimulus check could be approved and arrive, based on how quickly the IRS processed and sent out the second stimulus payments. 

Note that checks for different payment groups (direct depositphysical checks and EIP cards) may begin to arrive at different times, and it could take weeks for people in a group to all get their funds, so consider these dates a starting point only, and read on for more details. We’ll refresh these dates as the situation changes in Washington.

When could the next stimulus check arrive?

Stimulus check passes Congress Friday, March 12
Stimulus bill signed into law Sunday, March 14
First direct-deposit check sent Week of March 22
First paper checks sent Week of March 29
First EIP cards sent Week of April 5
Claims for missing stimulus money open May 3

How can you find out which payment group you’d be in?

This is an important question. Direct deposit recipients typically get their stimulus checks faster, as evidenced by the first two rounds, however, there have been issues both times that saw deposits going to temporary accounts, which were therefore rejected by the banks.

The IRS told CNET in January that some people who received a physical check or EIP card the first time may get paid by the other method the second time around. And anecdotally, we’ve heard of people who received direct deposit payments the first time finally getting an EIP card in the mail — and not an electronic bank transfer — two weeks after the IRS tool said the payment was issued.

Our recommendation is to make sure you have direct deposit set up with the IRS as part of your 2020 tax return, if you ordinarily file taxes, and attempt to file them quickly, so you’re set with your most recent financial information.

The other groups that are loosely defined (by us) include social security beneficiaries, who received payments a different way the first time if they’re part of the SSI or SSDI programs, and people with more complex scenarios, which could lead to potential issues or holdups receiving their money. People in child support situations have been one example, and so have people who are incarcerated, as well as those with more complex citizenship scenarios.


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How quickly could the IRS start sending all the new checks?

In under three weeks, the IRS and Treasury sent roughly 147 million second stimulus payments. That was a tremendously fast turnaround with the second payout. In comparison, it took the IRS 19 days from the date the March 2019 stimulus bill passed to the day the first check was issued. 

Conversely, the Dec. 27 stimulus package gave the IRS just 17 days total, including weekends, to legally send out the payments, and some people have reported that they received their EIP cards two weeks after the date the IRS tool said it had shipped. (If you didn’t get yours, you have to claim it as part of tax season 2020.)

There was one notable direct deposit error as a result of the IRS’ rush to get payments delivered, and people who didn’t get their payment may now have to wait weeks or months for their second checks. But the scenario suggests that if the protocols are in place, the IRS could theoretically ship out third stimulus checks within days and weeks, rather than weeks and months.

As an interesting data point, the IRS was able to process between 5 million and 7 million a week with the first stimulus check, according to a government report from June.

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How you get your second stimulus check could also influence how soon your payment arrives.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Could tax season impact a new stimulus payment?

This is a great question, and one we repeatedly ask ourselves: How the IRS and Treasury would handle a third stimulus check. Some of that could very well depend on timing. 

Let’s say that a stimulus bill were to pass both chambers of Congress before March. 14, a month after the IRS begins processing the first 2020 tax returns. Would they send a separate check or attempt to bundle them in with the Recovery Rebate Credit for missing money from the first two checks? Either way, the IRS would have very little time or available resources to process the third checks, or change their protocol to wrap the second into taxes.

If a bill passes March 14, it would still overlap with tax season by a month, before the April 15 tax deadline. 

By that time, tens of millions of Americans may have already received their tax refunds, which could make it tricky for the IRS to straighten out or redact after issuing. Things could get complex whether the IRS would attempt to fold a third check delivery into the remaining tax cycle, or send a payment separately.

How can I get the next check faster?

There may be a few things you can do to help speed up receipt of your payment, assuming it happens. For example, signing up for direct deposit in your 2020 tax return would put you in the priority category for a third stimulus payment. 

And if you’ve moved recently, tell the IRS and USPS. Here are our other suggestions for people to get their second checks faster. Note that, there could be some changes to qualifications that may not apply to a possible third stimulus check.

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The first and second stimulus checks were nominally sorted by different payment groups, and one had a clear advantage over the others.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Would the stimulus bill include another deadline for the IRS to deliver the money? 

The Jan. 15 deadline set for the second stimulus check was written into the text of the bill without explanation. It isn’t immediately clear if the bill text would adopt another cutoff in the future, or if that was a one-time consideration that took into account the IRS’ overlapping duties to process stimulus checks and prepare for Tax Season 2020. Last year, the April 15 tax date was extended to July 15.

The two overlap with the second stimulus check in that anyone who didn’t receive all or part of their second payment must claim it as part of the IRS’ Recovery Rebate Credit on their tax return — even if they have nonfiler status and aren’t typically required to file taxes.

A third stimulus payment seems likely now, but is it guaranteed?

A bill that includes a stimulus payment isn’t a done deal until it’s signed into law. That said, Biden appears to be bent on driving forward a $1,400 check as part of his overarching stimulus plan, and Democrats in Congress have paved the way to push a bill through Republican opposition using a tool called budget reconciliation



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