March 2, 2021

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We have a pretty clear idea when your $1,400 stimulus check could arrive: 2 timelines – CNET

7 min read

A new stimulus check could come within weeks, not months.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A lot is going on this week in Congress — including the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump (here’s how to watch live) — but that hasn’t stopped the House of Representatives from working to finalize President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, and the third stimulus check for up to $1,400 per person that is very likely to come with it. Two new details emerged this week that help paint a clearer picture of when a more “targeted” third stimulus check could arrive, and what might slow or stop it from getting into people’s hands.

“We hope to have this all done by the end of February. Certainly on the president’s desk in time to offset the March 14 deadline where some unemployment benefits would expire,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday. Meanwhile, the House made an important procedural move to advance its proposal to the next step. That, in turn, could help settle who will (and who won’t) be eligible to get the full stimulus check amount.

The span of time between the time Congress might approve a $1,400 stimulus check, when the IRS calculates your particular share and then the time it takes to land in your bank account or mailbox could change depending on which payment group you’re in (more below on that). Adding another layer of complexity, the third check would likely drop in the midst of tax season. We map out possible dates and explore questions about the 2020 tax season below. This story was recently updated.

Third stimulus check timeline: A few goalposts to watch for

The stimulus check schedule is no sure thing. If all the pieces come together, a stimulus package has a chance of passing the House and Senate by the end of February — but it appears Pelosi has built in slush time for negotiations and amendments. Democrats have what many consider to be a surefire way to pass the bill even without Republican approval, but a delay of any sort could push it back days or even weeks.

We’ve laid out some hypothetical dates for two situations: if a bill were to become law before the end of February, or by March 14, a date when some existing benefits lapse. The chart below highlights when the IRS could potentially send the next stimulus check, based on how quickly it processed and sent out the second stimulus payments. 

Note that different payment groups by method (direct depositphysical checks and EIP cards) may begin to show up at different times. And it could take weeks for people in a group to all get their funds, so consider these dates a starting point only, and read on for more details. We’ll refresh these dates as the situation evolves.

When could the next stimulus check possibly arrive?

Stimulus check passes Congress Friday, Feb. 26 Friday, March 12
Stimulus bill signed into law Monday, March 1 Sunday, March 14
First direct deposit check sent Week of March 8 Week of March 22
First paper checks sent Week of March 15 Week of March 29
First EIP cards sent Week of March 22 Week of April 5
Claims for missing stimulus money open (after tax season ends) May 3 May 3

Which stimulus payment group would you be in? (It matters)

The way you get your stimulus money could help determine when you get your stimulus money. Direct deposit recipients typically get their stimulus checks faster, as evidenced by the first two rounds of payments. But both times there have been issues involving deposits going to temporary accounts, which were rejected by banks.

The IRS told CNET in January that some people who received a physical check or EIP card the first time may get paid by the other method the second time around. And, anecdotally, we’ve heard of people who received direct deposit payments the first time finally getting an EIP card in the mail — and not an electronic bank transfer — two weeks after the IRS tool said the payment was issued.

Our recommendation is to make sure you have direct deposit set up with the IRS as part of your 2020 tax return, if you ordinarily file taxes. We also suggest you attempt to file them quickly, so you’re set with your most recent financial information.

The other payment groups loosely defined (by us) include Social Security beneficiaries, who received payments a different way the first time if they’re part of the SSI or SSDI programs, and people with more complex scenarios that could lead to potential issues or holdups receiving their money. People in different child support situations have been one example, and so have people who are incarcerated, as well as those with complex citizenship scenarios.

Now playing: Watch this: Stimulus check No. 3: What you need to know


How quickly could the IRS get everyone their stimulus checks?

In fewer than three weeks from the date the second stimulus bill passed in December, the IRS and Treasury sent about 147 million payments. That was a tremendously fast turnaround. Back in March, it took the IRS 19 days after the first stimulus bill passed to issue the first round of those $1,200 checks, out of a total of about 160 million payments. 

In both cases, delivery didn’t always go smoothly. Some people reported they received EIP cards from the second payment two weeks after the date the IRS tool said it had shipped. (If you didn’t get yours, you have to claim it as part of tax season 2020.)

There was also a notable direct deposit error as a result of the IRS’ rush to get payments delivered and people who didn’t get their payment may now have to wait weeks or months for their second checks. But the scenario suggests that if the protocols are in place, the IRS could theoretically ship out third stimulus checks within days and weeks, rather than weeks and months. Tax season, however, could throw a big wrench into the gears — more below.


How you get your second stimulus check could influence how soon your payment arrives.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Tax season could affect a new stimulus payment like this

Since the third stimulus check is likely to drop in the middle of tax season (taxes are due April 15), the IRS may have to calculate your total based on the most recent tax filing it has — 2020 if you file taxes early, or 2019 if the check is ready before your tax return is. 

If you’re owed money, you might have to wait a year, until you file your 2021 taxes in 2022, to claim it, according to the latest proposal (PDF).

By mid-March, tens of millions of Americans may have already received their tax refunds, which could make it tricky for the IRS to straighten out problems or redact refunds after issuing. Again, you may need to wait a year to address any errors.

Can your third stimulus payment arrive any faster? Here’s what to know

There may be a few things you can do to help speed up receipt of a third payment, assuming it happens. For example, signing up for direct deposit in your 2020 tax return would put you in the priority category for a third stimulus payment. 

And if you’ve moved recently, tell the IRS and USPS. Here are our other suggestions for how people can make it more likely they’ll get their second checks faster. Note that there could be some changes to qualifications that may not apply to a possible third stimulus check.


The first and second stimulus checks were nominally sorted by different payment groups, and one had a clear advantage over the others.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Will the IRS issue another cutoff date for sending out checks?

The Jan. 15 deadline set for the second stimulus check was written into the text of the bill without explanation. It isn’t immediately clear if the bill text would adopt another cutoff in the future, or if that was a one-time consideration that took into account the IRS’ overlapping need to process stimulus checks and prepare for the 2020 tax season. Last year, the April 15 tax date was extended to July 15.

The two overlap with the second stimulus check in that anyone who didn’t receive all or part of their second payment must claim it as part of the IRS’ Recovery Rebate Credit on their tax return — even if they have nonfiler status and aren’t typically required to file taxes.

Is a third stimulus check a sure thing?

A bill that includes a stimulus payment isn’t a done deal until it’s signed into law. That said, Biden appears determined to drive forward a $1,400 check as part of his overarching stimulus plan, and Democrats in Congress have paved the way to push a bill through Republican opposition using a tool called budget reconciliation

Here’s everything you need to know about stimulus checks in general, including what to do if you run into problems with either of the first two payments.


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