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

Angela Lang/CNET

With the general election now 43 days away and predictions that the COVID-19 pandemic will worsen through the fall, staying up to date on the status of the coronavirus relief bill and a possible stimulus check can be a challenge. We’ll keep it simple.

Last week, Democratic leaders and White House officials appeared open to working on another stimulus package prior to the Nov. 3 election. “I want to see people get money,” President Donald Trump said last week. “We should have an agreement. People should be helped.” But the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and ongoing concerns about a government shutdown may cloud negotiations.

Here are the most important takeaways concerning a second direct payment — we count them out below. (This story is updated often.)


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

Angela Lang/CNET

1. A new stimulus check is wanted, but not here yet

The second stimulus check has strong bipartisan support, but is not a done deal. Talks have now been on hold for over a month. Another payment will only happen if a bill passes Congress or is funded through an executive order, the latter of which Trump hinted at in early September.

“It’s very important that we have stimulus that helps the areas of the economy that need support,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sept. 14. “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 faster than first time

It took the IRS and Treasury Department 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 tilt in your favor

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. You can estimate the size of your check right 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 the IRS sends your stimulus money matters

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
  • 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 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.

6. The fine print can quickly get complicated

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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