Congress eyes $600 second stimulus check. Would your payment group be first or last?

Will you be first in line for a stimulus check, or last?

Angela Lang/CNET

A deal that includes a second stimulus check is inching closer as Washington negotiators continue to hammer out the details for a new stimulus package. Even assuming a payment is approved, the IRS and Treasury won’t be able to send the second stimulus checks all at once. In fact, there are still some people who, even eight months later, are waiting for their first stimulus check to arrive.

We’ll tell you everything we know about how long you might personally have to wait for your second stimulus check. But first, to make sure we’re all on the same page, the latest discussion suggests that a second direct payment could top out at $600, which is half the $1,200 upper limit each eligible adult was qualified to receive with the first check.

The situation is complicated and far from final. In fact, Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican, plans to petition for a $1,200 direct payment on Friday, he tweeted. There’s also already talk of another stimulus package in 2021 to pick up what a smaller bill in 2020 would leave behind. Meanwhile, you can read what we know about the contents of the latest stimulus package here.

Whenever another payment is authorized — and it’s whispered that could be as soon as this weekend — you’ll want to know where you stand in line to receive it. This story has been updated with new information.

Read more: Want a third stimulus check? January’s new Congress could hold the key

First in line: People who set up direct deposit with the IRS

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

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


For the first stimulus check, the IRS took 19 days to build their online tool. On April 15, it sent the first batch of stimulus checks, and in the first week, sent roughly $80 million payments to eligible recipients through direct deposit. People were encouraged to continue registering for direct deposit through May 13 as a way to get their checks faster than through the mail. Some did experience holdups with the tool or with their personal situations, but on the whole, this was the speediest method.

Here are ways you can help speed up delivery of your next check, including what we know now about signing up for direct deposit.

Those who receive Social Security benefits

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

The IRS had a separate informational section for people who receive SSDI and SSI. Normally, people in these groups receive their federal benefits through a Direct Express card, though people in this group received their stimulus payment through a non-Direct Express bank or a paper check.

People getting paper stimulus checks

With the first batch of payments, the IRS began to mail checks about a week after people with direct deposit data on file. The US Treasury can process between 5 million to 7 million paper stimulus checks a week in addition to checks for other federal programs, according to a Government Accountability Office report from June. 

The IRS and Treasury said they began sending checks to people whose adjusted gross income, or AGI, is less than $20,000, and then moving to people whose AGIs are progressively larger.

The IRS has said it sent 160 million economic impact payments in total, which means it’s taken months to distribute paper checks to every eligible recipient. In fact, the IRS is wrapping up its distribution this month. Anyone who didn’t get a full or partial payment will be able to claim it in early 2021 during tax season.


When you get your stimulus money could depend on who you are.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Recipients of EIP cards

Economic impact payment debit cards are prepaid Visa cards the IRS mailed 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 payment start to arrive a month after the first direct deposit transfers take place. 

As with paper checks, the IRS would be able to process 5 to 7 million EIP cards a week. The payments arrived in unmarked envelopes, making it difficult for the recipient to identify, but also making it less likely to be stolen through mail fraud.

People who have more complex situations

This category includes people who received a check after June, still haven’t received their full stimulus payment or who didn’t know they need to complete an extra step

Direct payments will conclude at the end of December. Here’s what could be holding up the stimulus check delivery for some people and how to contact the IRS to report a missing, lost or stolen check. You may be qualified to claim a catch-up payment from the IRS, called a Recovery Rebate Credit, in tax season 2021.


Understanding your stimulus priority group will help you set your expectations about the next check.

Angela Lang/CNET

What should I do if I still haven’t got my full stimulus check amount?

It isn’t always clear how much money the IRS might owe you in the event of an error. We suggest starting with our stimulus check calculator and this introduction to how the IRS tabulates your total sum. If the numbers seem lower than they should be, you might want to investigate further.

See if any of these situations could apply to you: Are you missing $500 allotted for your child dependents, or do you pay or receive child support? Are you a tax nonfiler who may be owed a stimulus check (including older adults and people who receive SSI or SSDI)?

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 read up on the rules. And a new court ruling has made it possible for millions of people who are incarcerated to get a check, even after the IRS changed its interpretation to exclude this group.

Depending on which group you’re in, we’ve also mapped out some speculative dates for how soon you could potentially get your next stimulus check.

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