A hand holding a check labeled "relief program" from the United States government

Stimulus Round 2 — What You Need to Know

Updated Jan. 8 — Stimulus payments are expected to hit accounts starting Jan. 4, but lawmakers are still discussing how much payments will be. Confused? We rounded up the details so you’ll know what to expect.

Portrait of Katie J. Skipper

Katie J. Skipper (She, Her, Hers)
BECU Community Content Manager
Published Dec 31, 2020 in: Jobs & Income

Read time: 6 minutes

The second round of COVID-19 stimulus checks are already on their way and will arrive in accounts as early as Jan. 4. Good news if you're one of the 6 in 10 people set back financially by the pandemic. But questions are still swirling, so we tracked down answers that we hope will help you make sense of it all, and so you can plan for the financial boost that may be coming your way.

Did a stimulus bill actually pass?

Yes. On Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020, the President signed the second stimulus package since the pandemic started. It's called the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021. (We think the CARES Act was easier to remember.)

How much will I get?

Eligible single people will get stimulus payments of up to $600. Families will get up to $1,200 per eligible couple and up to $600 for dependent kids who are 16 and younger.

Payments are based on your 2019 tax return. If you're single and made more than $75,000 in 2019, or you're a couple who made more than $150,000 last year, the payment goes down $5 for every $100 over the threshold.

In case you don't want to do the math, single people making more than $87,000 and couples making more than $174,000 won't qualify.

What happened to the proposal for $2,000?

Some lawmakers are still pushing for an increase. If the legislation passes, the IRS says , "...the Economic Impact Payments that have been issued will be topped up as quickly as possible."

Who is getting a check?

Generally, everyone who filed a 2019 tax return who meets the income guidelines. Specifically:

  • U.S. citizens and legal residents who can't be claimed as a dependent on someone else's income taxes.
  • Married couples in which one or both spouses are U.S. citizens or legal residents who have a Social Security number. (Even though families with one immigrant spouse are eligible this time, the payments are tied to the taxpayers and qualifying children of the family who have Social Security numbers.)
  • Eligible parents of dependent children 16 years old and younger.

Do I have to apply or register to get my payment?

Nope. Payments are automatic if you are eligible and you:

  • Filed a 2019 tax return.
  • Receive Social Security, survivor or disability benefits (SSDI).
  • Receive Railroad Retirement benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
  • Receive Veterans Affairs benefits but didn't file a tax return.
  • Successfully registered for the first payment online at IRS.gov using the Non-Filers Tool by Nov. 21, 2020.
  • Submitted a simplified tax return that has been processed by the IRS.

How will I get my check?

The IRS is already sending direct deposits to people for whom they have direct deposit information on file.

If you don't have direct deposit information on file with the IRS, you'll get a paper check or debit card by U.S. mail. (Look for a white envelope that prominently displays the U.S. Department of the Treasury seal. The issuing bank for the debit cards is MetaBank®, N.A. Look for their name on the back of the card.)

What if I'm eligible but I don't get my payment?

You'll have to claim it when you file your 2020 taxes in 2021.

When will payments go out?

The IRS started sending direct deposits the week of Dec. 28, but deposits won't start showing up in accounts until the official deposit date of Jan. 4.

Mailed checks and debit cards started going out Dec. 30.

How will I know if I get paid?

If you have direct deposit, the best way to know if your stimulus check has arrived is through an automatic banking alert you set up with your credit union or bank.

Another option is to check the IRS "Get My Payment" tool. The site should be updated soon.

The IRS advises against contacting your financial institution to ask about payment timing.

The IRS website lists the wrong account number for my deposit. Where did my money go, and how do I get it back?

Direct Express: If you receive federal benefits on a Direct Express card, the IRS will deposit your stimulus check on that card. The card number is the account number that should appear on the IRS GetMyPayment website. Direct Express cards are used for benefits from Social Security Administration (SSA), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) and Veterans Affairs (VA).

Third-party tax preparers: In a Jan. 8 news release, the IRS said some stimulus payments went to temporary bank accounts established when taxpayers filed their 2019 tax returns using a third-party tax preparer. The IRS is working on redirecting those payments and encourages people to check their accounts. Here's information about two tax preparers we've been hearing about:

  • H&R Block: If you used H&R Block to prepare your taxes last year, your stimulus funds may have been sent there. Check your tax return to see if it matches the account number listed on the IRS GetMyPayment website. H&R Block says it will send payments to you the same way you received your tax refund, whether that's direct deposit or a check in the mail.
  • TurboTax: If you received last year's tax refund on a TurboTax prepaid debit card, the IRS will deposit your stimulus check on that card. If you no longer have that card, contact TurboTax for a replacement.

What if the IRS sends my money to a closed account? 

The bank or credit union will return the funds to the IRS. If you think this happened to you and you think you're eligible for the payment, you can claim it on your 2020 taxes under Recovery Rebate Credit.

What if I qualified based on my 2019 tax return but I made too much to qualify in 2020? Do I have to pay it back?

No. KING 5 looked into that and found this in a summary by the National Conference of State Legislatures: "Taxpayers receiving an advance payment that exceeds the amount of their eligible credit will not be required to repay any amount of the payment. If the amount of the credit determined on the taxpayer's 2020 tax return exceeds the amount of the advance payment, taxpayers will receive the difference as a refundable tax credit."

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Portrait of Katie J. Skipper

Katie J. Skipper (She, Her, Hers)
BECU Community Content Manager

Katie writes for BECU about personal finance and social justice topics. Her career spans reporting for newspapers and communicating on behalf of government agencies and private businesses. Learn about Katie's career and education on LinkedIn.