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Why You May Not Get a Stimulus Check for Months

By Maurie Backman – May 8, 2020 at 7:18AM

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Millions of Americans are already sitting on stimulus money -- so what's taking your check so long?

The COVID-19 crisis has already had a devastating effect on the U.S. economy, and though parts of the country are slowly starting to reopen, it's too soon to state that we've entered the recovery phase. Meanwhile, millions of Americans continue to struggle on unemployment, while countless small business owners are left to contemplate whether their companies can survive the hit they're currently taking.

The silver lining in all of this, however, is the fact that millions of Americans have already received a $1,200 stimulus payment from the government, which they can use to pay their mortgages, put food on the table, and cover other essentials -- at least in the very near term. But what if you haven't yet gotten your stimulus cash?

If your income isn't particularly high, then there's a good chance you're still eligible for that payment but that it simply hasn't arrived yet. But you may be less than thrilled to learn that some Americans may have to wait until the latter part of the summer to get that money in hand.

Older man reaching into mailbox


What's the holdup?

Americans who provided the IRS with bank account details for direct deposit have either received their stimulus cash already or should be getting it shortly. Many people actually didn't have to do anything in this regard because the IRS was able to use the information it had on file for processing 2018 or 2019 tax refunds to send out direct stimulus payments. And those who didn't get refunds by direct deposit in recent years were able to use a new IRS tool to submit their bank account details.

But if you didn't take that step or you don't have a bank account, then you'll need to sit tight and wait for a physical stimulus check to arrive in the mail. And you could end up waiting quite a while.

The IRS said back in late April that it plans to mail out 5 million paper checks per week. But those checks will be prioritized so that low-income households get them first. If you don't fall into that category, then you may not get your stimulus cash until September, because that's how long the IRS thinks it will take to pay everyone who's due that money.

Making ends meet while you wait on your stimulus check

If you're struggling to pay your bills in the absence of your stimulus cash, reach out to your mortgage company or landlord and service providers and ask for relief. You may be able to defer your mortgage or rent payment or get more time to pay certain bills, like utilities.

If you have equity in your home, you can try borrowing against it to cover immediate expenses, as well. Or you can try taking out a personal loan -- an option that's viable if your credit is strong.

Of course, if you have an emergency fund, now's the time to tap it, especially if you're struggling to cover essential expenses, like food and household supplies. Many Americans, unfortunately, don't have cash reserves, which is why borrowing affordably until your stimulus comes in may be your best option.

Finally, make sure your income doesn't render you ineligible for a stimulus check. You're entitled to a full stimulus if your 2018 or 2019 income didn't exceed:

  • $75,000 as a single tax filer
  • $112,500 as a head of household
  • $150,000 as a married couple filing jointly

If your income surpassed these levels, you may be eligible for some money, albeit not the full $1,200 (though you're also entitled to $500 in stimulus cash per qualifying child in your household under the age of 17). Read up on the rules surrounding stimulus eligibility if you haven't yet gotten your check because the last thing you want to do is bank on money that's not actually coming your way.

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