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In March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) gave the majority of Americans the right to stimulus checks valued at up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per dependent child. The IRS has paid the promised funds to around 160 million households, but that's far from every eligible household.
In fact, according to ProPublica, as many as 12 million people did not get COVID-19 money yet. Unfortunately, most who have been left out in the cold are the people who need the money most.
Those who are eligible for payments but haven't received them yet can still get their COVID-19 money this year. But time is running out.
Why you need to act soon if you didn't get your COVID-19 stimulus payment
There's a simple reason so many eligible Americans haven't received payments yet -- the IRS doesn't know exactly how much they are owed, or how to find them. Those who have not received their payments yet need to correct those issues.
The IRS created an online form for non-filers to use to provide their details and obtain their payments. This form is for people who should be entitled to a stimulus check, but who the IRS couldn't obtain information for -- usually because they make too little money to file a tax return.
The IRS used tax returns from 2019 if they were available, or from 2018 for those who hadn't filed yet, to obtain information to send stimulus checks. The IRS also obtained information from the VA and the Social Security Administration. However, if you filed neither a 2018 nor a 2019 return and you don't receive VA or Social Security benefits, the IRS wouldn't have obtained your info -- so now you'll need to fill out the form for non-filers to tell them who you are, how much money you're entitled to, and where to send the money.
Unfortunately, the online form for non-filers that lets those who didn't file returns tell the IRS how to deliver their stimulus money is only available until Nov. 21, 2020 at 3 p.m. EST. That means the 12 million eligible Americans who are missing checks have less than a week to take action and provide their details.
Missing the deadline could have major consequences. Anyone who does not submit information by the November deadline will not get money this year. And they won't get it at all unless they file a tax return for the 2020 year to claim it. You can claim it via tax return since the stimulus check was basically an advance on a tax credit. Your return for 2020 can therefore prove you're eligible.
Tax returns aren't accepted until the end of January of the subsequent year, so if you miss the November deadline, the earliest you could get COVID-19 money is early February 2021. With coronavirus cases spiking and the threat of another lockdown, most people need stimulus money now -- not in three months.
Filing a tax return is also far more complicated and burdensome than just filling out the online form. The vast majority of people who are missing stimulus checks do not regularly file tax returns (otherwise the IRS would already have the information it needs). Going through the filing process just to claim the coronavirus money could be a major hardship.
The bottom line is that eligible Americans shouldn't wait months to get coronavirus money in their bank accounts -- or miss out completely if filing a return next year gets too complicated. If you are entitled to coronavirus funds and you are among the 12 million Americans who haven't yet received them, take action before the Nov. 21 deadline so you don't miss out.