What’s happening with a second stimulus check? We’ll tell you.

Angela Lang/CNET

With so much going on in this uncertain time, it isn’t easy to stay on top of what’s happening with a potential second stimulus payment. Issues such as vaccine development, the looming presidential debates and filling the Supreme Court seat left open by the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg are competing for center stage.

We’ve identified six important facts to know about what a second direct payment could look like for eligible Americans, if negotiations yield a new stimulus relief package. We update this story regularly.


High jobless rates and a wavering economy underscore the need for more aid.

Angela Lang/CNET

1. We’re one step closer to a new stimulus check

The second stimulus check has strong bipartisan support, but talks have now been on hold for over a month. On Thursday, new hope emerged in the form of an agreement that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will resume negotiations that could result in funding for a coronavirus bill that includes a second check.

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2. The IRS could speed up the process to send checks

It took the IRS and Treasury Department about two and a half weeks to send the first round of stimulus payments to eligible recipients. Treasury Secretary Steven 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 shift to your advantage

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:


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

4. There’s a method to who gets their check first

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 (in June), this is how the nearly 160 million payments break down:

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

With the IRS continuing to urge people to set up direct deposit to receive payments straight to their bank account, that number could be even higher. It’s expected you’ll receive your money fastest with direct deposit, followed by the check and then the EIP card. The IRS automatically picks the payment method, but is likely to reopen its portal to register for direct deposit if you haven’t already.

5. We already think we know how much money you could get

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. 

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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