Stimulus Check Update: More Than 90 Million Payments Issued, but Still More to Come

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 25, 2021 - First published on March 22, 2021

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A check from the United States Treasury.

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Stimulus payments have hit a lot of bank accounts, but some people will need to wait longer to get their money.

On March 11, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill was signed into law that includes a host of benefits for struggling Americans. Among the bill's highlights -- an expanded Child Tax Credit, boosted and extended unemployment benefits, and a third round of stimulus checks.

The latest stimulus round is the most generous one yet, with checks being worth $1,400 apiece. But while those payments have already hit a lot of people's bank accounts, many Americans will need to sit tight and wait longer on that money.

When will your stimulus payment arrive?

The IRS began issuing stimulus payments as soon as the relief bill was passed into law, and so far, over 90 million payments have gone out. But the bulk of those payments have come in the form of direct deposits.

It's easy for the IRS to blast out electronic payments for those who are eligible for the direct deposit option. Paper checks and debit cards, however, take longer to issue and can only go out in limited quantities at a time, and so far, only about 150,000 physical checks have been sent in the mail. At this pace, many people who are waiting on a mailed stimulus likely won't see their money until April, or possibly May, depending on how quickly the IRS is able to work.

In addition to processing stimulus checks, the IRS is also dealing with tax season. Originally, 2020 tax returns were set to be due on April 15, the standard tax-filing deadline. Last week, however, the IRS made the decision to move the filing deadline back one month, giving people until May 17 to submit their returns. That new deadline could make it easier for the IRS to simultaneously manage the distribution of stimulus checks and tax refunds.

And speaking of stimulus checks and tax refunds, those who were eligible for a first- or second-round stimulus payment but never received one can, and should, claim that money on their 2020 taxes via Recovery Rebate Credit. Those who don't owe the IRS money from 2020 will get their stimulus cash in refund form. However, those with a tax liability may not see any money at all. For example, someone who never got a second-round $600 stimulus check but owes the IRS $800 in taxes won't be eligible for a refund. In that case, the filer's tax liability would simply be offset by the stimulus amount owed.

Since the third round of stimulus checks is still underway, filers who are missing that money by the time the new May 17 deadline rolls around can't claim those funds as part of the Recovery Rebate Credit. Rather, that credit is only applicable to stimulus rounds that were issued in 2020. Furthermore, it's possible that those awaiting a stimulus by mail will, in fact, still be missing those funds by May 17 -- but that doesn't mean that money isn't on its way. Eligible recipients can check the status of their third-round stimulus payment by accessing the IRS's Get My Payment tool.

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