Stimulus Check Update: 5 Things You Need to Know About Direct Payments Today

by Dana George | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on March 24, 2021

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A photo of the economic stimulus check from the U.S. Treasury, with the word "STIMULUS" boldly stamped across it. The check is surrounded by $100 bills.

Image source: Getty Images

A review of what we know today about the latest round of stimulus payments.

Last week, the Biden administration set the lofty goal to get 100 million direct stimulus payments into bank accounts in 10 days. Today, they meet that goal. Individuals with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of up to $75,000 per year, heads of households earning less than $112,500, and couples earning up to $150,000 annually qualify for full $1,400 direct payments per person.

1. Millions of checks hit banks today

By last week, the IRS had delivered 90 million payments worth $242 billion, with another 150,000 payments worth $442 million sent by mail. 100 million more checks are promised by today. If you've been wondering where your direct payment might be, check your bank account. Otherwise, keep an eye on your mailbox.

2. Some eligible recipients received payment within hours -- and there's a reason for that

President Joe Biden signed The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law on March 11. By the very next day, millions were surprised to find $1,400 deposits pending in their bank accounts. Few people expected to see the funds before March 17, the official settlement date set by the IRS. If you received a check within hours of Biden signing the bill into law, it is likely because you bank with a small institution. Many smaller banks and credit unions decided to back the stimulus payments using their own funds rather than wait for government funding.

3. Millions more have access to direct payments

An estimated 8 million eligible Americans did not receive the first stimulus check sent last year. Many of those eligible recipients had low incomes and were not legally required to file a tax return. Without a tax return, the IRS had no record of them, and no check was sent.

To identify eligible recipients, the IRS set up an online portal last year where people who don't usually file taxes could register for payment. Today, the IRS has no plans to reopen the portal but encourages people to file a 2020 tax return -- even if they are not required to. Low-income filers can use the IRS's free-file option.

Another group that fell between the cracks were people who, based on their 2019 tax return, earned too much to qualify for a direct stimulus payment. Even though they may have lost their jobs in 2020 and needed the stimulus funds to get by, early eligibility was based on the tax return from the previous year.

Let's say that you didn't qualify for a direct payment based on your 2019 tax return, but your 2020 income fell. Whether you receive a check soon depends on whether you've filed your 2020 tax return yet. If you have filed 2020 taxes, you are likely in line to receive a check. If you have not filed, you may have to wait until the IRS gets your 2020 return. Your stimulus payment should be added to any refund you are due or subtracted from any taxes you owe.

4. Be on the lookout

If you typically receive your tax refund by mail, your stimulus payment will arrive in the same way, via a check or prepaid debit card. The payment will arrive in a white envelope from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and can easily be mistaken for junk mail. If your payment comes via check, it will look similar to a tax refund check.

5. It's easy to check payment status

The IRS has reopened its "Get My Payment" page, allowing people to check their third stimulus payment status. If you don't immediately see a date, you may receive one of the following messages:

Payment Status Not Available. This typically means that the IRS has not processed your payment yet or that you are not eligible for payment. Don't panic if you see this message. As long as you're eligible for payment, you will eventually receive one -- even if you have to provide the IRS with more information.

Need More Information. This is the message the IRS posts when a payment has been returned to them because the postal service was unable to deliver the check. If you have recently moved, you may see this message. The good news is that the IRS allows anyone who receives this message to use the "Get My Payment" page to provide them with bank information so a check can be direct deposited.

2020 was a rough year for the world. According to a TransUnion study released earlier this month, 38% of U.S. consumers say their finances remain negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, while 27% more are "hopeful" that their finances will recover. While it's true that some people who don't need a stimulus payment will receive one anyway, there are millions that do need the extra funds.

If you've been hit hard by the pandemic, visit our coronavirus hardship loan page to learn if you qualify for a loan to get you through.

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