What’s happening with a second stimulus check?

Angela Lang/CNET

After six months of talk about second stimulus checks and skinny bills and other economic rescue proposals, who could blame you for losing the thread on where Washington lawmakers stand on a second round of payments?

While negotiations have run hot and most recently cold, both Democrats and Republicans continue to express the need for more economic help for Americans. 

“We all want to have an agreement,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday. Pelosi said she’ll keep the House of Representatives in session until a deal is reached, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. (The House is currently scheduled to recess Oct. 2 and will not return to Washington until after the November election.)

The situation could change any time, but these are the top six things to know about the status of a new stimulus check.


Washington continues to talk about the need for more direct payments.

Angela Lang/CNET

1. There’s no new stimulus check yet

The stimulus check is not a foregone conclusion and right now its fate is tied to that of the overarching stimulus bill, which is stalled in bitter negotiations, or to an executive order, which President Donald Trump hinted at in early September. Another direct payment has strong bipartisan support.

“It’s very important that we have stimulus that helps the areas of the economy that need support,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Monday. “I’ve told [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi] I’m available anytime to negotiate, no conditions,” he said.

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2. The IRS could send a second check quicker than last time

It took the federal government about two and a half weeks to send the first round of stimulus payments to eligible recipients. Mnuchin has said he could send them much faster this time, once a deal is inked.  

“I could get out 50 million payments really quickly” and start making payments a week after a bill is signed, Mnuchin said in August.

3. Qualifications could change

While we think a second stimulus check would largely follow the same guidelines as the first, eligibility requirements are subject to change. It might even benefit your family, if a new stimulus bill redefines who counts as a qualifying dependent.

Other notes on eligibility:

  • Your adjusted gross income, or AGI plays a huge role. 
  • People who aren’t required to file taxes — either because they receive federal benefits or were below the income level to file — could also get a check.
  • In the first check, children under 16 counted for $500 apiece toward the total check, but did not receive their own money

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

Sarah Tew/CNET

4. You can estimate the size of your check now

If you’re still waiting for your first payment or are looking for an estimate for how much a second check could include, you can use our stimulus check calculator to get an idea for how much you, your family and your dependents could expect to receive, especially if qualifications shift with another stimulus check. Our calculator tool doesn’t retain your personal details in any way. 

5. How more stimulus money could arrive

To get economic relief money out as quickly as possible to eligible Americans, the IRS and the Treasury Department took several approaches that included direct deposit, physical checks and prepaid EIP cards.  According to the most recent numbers from the Treasury Department (June), this is how the nearly 160 million payments break down:

  • Direct deposit: 75%, or 120 million
  • Paper check:  22%, or 35 million
  • Prepaid EIP debit card: 3%, or 4 million 

With the IRS continuing to urge people to set up direct deposit to receive payments straight to the bank account, that number could be even higher.

6. The fine print can get complicated fast

When and if a second stimulus check does arrive, the details will require some unraveling. While some situations are straightforward, other complications about you and your dependents could make it unclear if you’re eligible, the size of a check you should expect and when it’s coming. Fringe cases abound. 

For example:

There’s much more to know about other government payments during the pandemic. Here’s what you need to know about a possible interest check from the IRS, the $300 federal unemployment benefit and the administration’s payroll tax cut

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