Stimulus checks: Biggest takeaways to know about your first and second payment

Here’s what’s happening with a second stimulus check.

Angela Lang/CNET

Washington legislators continue to bicker over the details of another stimulus package, one that is almost guaranteed to contain a second stimulus check. There is nothing simple about the back-and-forth situation, or about the checks themselves, and everything they have to do with your taxes, your kids and even if you’d receive your payment weeks before or after your extended family and friends.

While there are still unanswered questions, we know a bit about how a second direct payment could work based on the first stimulus payment, revised ideas from previous stimulus proposals supported by both sides of the aisle and the latest details of a White House-authored stimulus bill.

Here’s our 2,000-foot view of what you need to know. We frequently update this story with new information.

1. Negotiations are still happening

Here’s the quick version: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will continue to negotiate through the week. 

The longer version: Both sides of the aisle are weighing the White House’s $1.8 trillion offer, which arrived Oct. 9 and includes another direct payment for up to $1,200 for individuals — as well as a change in the status of dependents (more below). As of Sunday, Pelosi called the $1.8 trillion White House offer “wholly insufficient.””However,” she added, “I remain hopeful that the White House will join us to work toward a relief package that addresses the health and economic crisis facing America’s families and will do so soon.”

The White House also pitched using money left over from the CARES Act as a quick way to get some aid out now, however the funds wouldn’t cover a second check.

2. A change in eligibility rules could result in more than $1,200

While we expect a second stimulus check to largely follow the same guidelines as the first, the requirements are subject to change. That might even benefit your family. One approach redefines who counts as a qualifying dependent and would give your family $500 for each dependent you identify on your taxes, regardless of age. 

The current $1.8 trillion proposal from the White House offers a $1,000 payment per child dependent. We’ve broken down how some families would benefit more from one approach versus the other when it comes to your total payment. (Here’s how young people would qualify for their own $1,200 check.)


High unemployment rates and a faltering economy underscore the need for more aid.

Angela Lang/CNET

3. US leaders really want you to have another stimulus check

Democrats want it. Republicans want it. And Trump also wants to send another round of checks out to Americans. In fact, every stimulus proposal since the first check began going out in April has included a second direct payment. 

Though a new payment is wrapped up in a bill of one form or another that has to pass both chambers of Congress and get the president’s signature, this is one element on which they all agree.

4. The IRS might deliver stimulus funds to you faster

The IRS has already gone through the growing pains of figuring out how to mobilize and deliver one round of stimulus money. In theory, the agency could speed up the process of sending the first batch of payments, when and if they’re approved. The tracking tool is already up and running, the system is in place and it’s likely that the majority of people who qualified for a first check will also receive another.

The timeline is constantly shifting, but we mapped out potential dates a check could be sent if approved before — and after — the election.

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5. There are different priority groups for sending payments

Not everyone gets their checks at the same time and some of that comes down to how you’re getting paid. For example, direct deposit — an electronic transfer of funds into your bank account — could happen weeks before people start to receive a paper check or prepaid EIP card in the mail. We identified five priority groups based on the first stimulus checks.

6. A $1,200-per-person stimulus check is only part of the story

The $1,200 maximum per person is a likely cap for a second stimulus payment, but there’s much more to know. Not everyone gets the full $1,200, and a dizzying set of rules decides your share (more below). However, if qualifications expand, families could get more money in the second round.

7. Payment details can get complicated, quick

When and if a second stimulus check does get approved, the details will require some unraveling. While some situations are straightforward, other complications about you and your dependents may make it unclear if you’re eligible and for how much. Fringe cases abound. 

For example:

8. You can already estimate your total stimulus amount

If you’re still waiting for your first payment or want to estimate how much a second check could include, our stimulus check calculator is here to help. Remember that the rules are complex and hinge on a variety of factors, like your AGI (here’s where to find it). Our calculator tool doesn’t retain your personal details in any way. 


Less than a quarter of eligible recipients received their payment as a check in the mail.

Sarah Tew/CNET

9. You won’t pay taxes on the money no matter when it arrives

The IRS doesn’t consider stimulus money to be income, and a payment you get this year won’t reduce your refund in 2021 or increase the amount you owe when you file your 2020 tax return. You also won’t have to repay part of your check if you qualify for a lower amount in 2021. The IRS said if you didn’t receive everything you were owed this year, you can claim it as a credit on your 2020 federal income tax return by filing in 2021. Here’s everything to know about stimulus checks and taxes.

There’s much more to know about other government payments during the pandemic, including a possible interest check from the IRS and where the $300 federal unemployment benefit is now.

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