Stimulus Check Update: More Than $2 Billion Worth of Stimulus Checks Remain Unclaimed

by Christy Bieber | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on May 11, 2021

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$100 bills surround a stimulus check from the U.S. Treasury

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Millions of stimulus checks authorized by the CARES Act have gone unclaimed.

In March of 2020, Congress sprang into action at the start of the pandemic to provide relief to struggling Americans. This came in the form of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).

The CARES Act provided the first of three stimulus checks that Americans would receive. This first check was valued at $1,200 per adult and $500 per eligible child dependent. Most of these checks have long since been delivered, either directly into people's bank accounts or via checks sent by mail.

There are, however, millions of checks that have either gone uncashed or that have been returned to the U.S. treasury. In fact, 1.25 million checks in total are still outstanding with a total value of around $2.1 billion. Here's what you need to know about these unclaimed funds -- and how to get your money if your check is one of the ones that hasn't been cashed yet.

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These are the Americans who have left billions unclaimed

Americans in every state have left stimulus checks uncashed, but more people in certain locations have either returned their checks or never received them.

Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Michigan have the highest percentage of unclaimed checks per capita, according to an analysis of the IRS data conducted by Newsweek. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 72,000 checks went unclaimed. By contrast, states with the lowest number of unclaimed checks per capita include Arizona, Texas, Utah, and California.

But while just a small percentage of California residents didn't get their money, there were still over 123,000 checks left uncashed in the state. California had the highest total number of unclaimed checks of anyplace in the U.S., in part because the state's population is so large.

What happens to unclaimed stimulus money?

When stimulus payments are unclaimed, the checks will become void 12 months from the time when the payment was first issued. Since the CARES Act payments were distributed more than a year ago, that means anyone who received a check but who did not cash it will no longer be able to do so.

It's still possible to request payment of the stimulus funds if you did not receive yours. You can do so by submitting a 2020 tax return to the IRS and requesting the unpaid amount on line 30 of your 1040 or 1040-SR tax form. However, you have a limited amount of time to submit your returns for last year as the tax deadline for the 2020 tax year is May 17, 2021. You also have the opportunity to claim the second stimulus check authorized in December 2020 by filing your taxes for last year.

If you aren't sure if you received the stimulus money that you were entitled to, the IRS has created an online tool that you can use to find out. You will need to provide some basic identifying information and the IRS will let you know if you are missing any of the unpaid stimulus funds.

You don't want to leave this money unclaimed, so if your check is one of the 1.25 million that went uncashed, take action sooner rather than later to access your stimulus funds.

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