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What are the 5 payment groups for stimulus checks and why does it matter what you are in?


A stimulus check is back on the table, but not everyone gets it at once.

Sarah Tew / CNET

The debate is over when a second stimulus check will come and how much money it should make is expected to warm up again in the next week as negotiations on a $ 908 billion coronavirus relief plan threaten to boil over. Two opposing parties want to add one more direct payment of up to $ 1,200 or $ 600 per person, threatening to overturn a precarious agreement as Congress racing to a deadline it is determined not to miss this time.

The situation may not bode well legislators trying to pass a cohesive economic bailout law before the end of the year, but the unwavering support gives hope that some momentum will come again. When and if it does pass, the next question is, how soon can you get it?

It’s a question with multiple answers. We elaborate on the elsewhere possible dates on which your stimulus check might come. But here we’ll explain the general framework the IRS used to conduct incentive checks under the CARES Act, and why that matters to how quickly you can receive your instant payment.

Turns out, where you stand in line and how complex your personal situation is delivery of your check may be days, weeks, or even months later than others. A second round of check would probably work the same way, although there may be things you can do speed up the receipt of your next payment.

Below we explain what the different “priority groups” are and what they can mean for you. If a second stimulus check doesn’t go through in 2020 as part of a bill, here is what is likely to happen in 2021. We recently updated this story with new details.

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Here are 5 incentive payment groups based on the first check

When the CARES Act passed in March, it took a few weeks for the IRS to build a tool and procedure to find out who owed a check and for how much. This formula helped determine the size of your household’s total amount, but the check sending schedule may have felt much less conscious.

With the IRS under pressure to get stimulus money quickly, the speed at which you received your check often depended on the method you were paid with. Any kind of complication can slow it down. In addition, some calculation errors caused some people who might not see it all or part of their allotted share until mid-2021.

Direct Deposit Recipients: People who use their direct deposit information registered with the IRS or providing that information when and if the registration is reopened, must be first in line to receive a stimulus check. An electronic money transfer is faster and more efficient, which means that this group received their first payment much faster.

Beneficiaries of social securityAt the first incentive payment, many Social Security beneficiaries who had direct deposit information with the federal government received checks in the first week, but not always on the first day.

People who get paper checks: The IRS began mailing checks to those with no direct filing information on file about a week later.


When you get your incentive money it may depend on who you are.

Sarah Tew / CNET

EIP card receivers: Debit cards with economic impact are prepaid Visa cards that the IRS has sent to about 4 million people as of mid-May. If the IRS follows the same order of payment priority, this group can begin their payment weeks after the first direct deposits are made.

People with more complex situations: This category includes people who received a check after June, are waiting for their incentive payment, or who didn’t know they had to go the extra mile. Direct payments will continue until the end of 2020 for some individuals who were not part of the previous groups. This is what could be there withhold the delivery of the stimulus check for some people and how to contact the IRS to report a missing, lost, or stolen check.

Why the IRS can’t send all checks at once

There are a few reasons why the IRS doesn’t send all of the stimulus payments at once. One of them is the sheer number of payouts it has to handle. With the first check, the IRS said it could deliver anywhere from 5 million to 7 million paper incentive checks per week people with an adjusted gross income, or AGI, is less than $ 20,000, and then moving to people whose AGIs are getting bigger, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Another reason why payments are made at different times for different people depends on how they get the money. By the summer, the IRS had sent money to at least 160 million people, as had the federal government direct deposit information to get their checks first.

Physical checks and EIP payments followed, creating a de facto order of priority that could result in some Americans receiving their checks days or even weeks earlier than others.

In fact, the last checks of the first round are still being distributed this month, and catch-up payments due to errors and unclaimed checks will keep coming in in 2021. Some people will even have to do that claim their first check as part of their 2020 tax return.


Understanding your incentive priority group will help you determine your expectations about the next audit.

Angela Lang / CNET

Some people were still waiting for their first checks this month

While the majority of people who lined up to receive an incentive check got theirs in late July, through the end of November, there were still millions of people eligible for incentive money who had not received it. That includes people who were not allocated $ 500 for their family members, Someone who be involved in child support situations and non-filers who may owe a stimulus check (including older adults and people who Receive SSI or SSDI).

If you have a US citizen abroad or resident in US territory and did not receive a check as expected, you may also need to research. And a new court ruling has made it possible for millions people who are locked up to get a check even after the IRS changed its rules to exclude this group.

The November 21 deadline to claim payment in 2020 has passed, but you can claim a catch-up allowance or error correction during the 2021 tax season.

Depending on which group you’re in, we’ve also mapped out some speculative dates how soon you could possibly get your next stimulus check.

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