December 2, 2021


PC Tech Therapy Blog by Daniyal Computer

Third stimulus check should arrive sooner than later. Here’s what we know today

6 min read


The IRS isn’t done paying out the second stimulus check, but a third payment is already on the agenda.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When could President-elect Joe Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus package (or whatever it eventually becomes) pass, and when could it send the third stimulus check, which Biden has proposed for up to $1,400 per qualified adult? The answers became a little clearer on Tuesday, after Senate Majority Leader-designate reaffirmed his agenda for the new Senate.

“Over the next several weeks, the Senate must accomplish three essential items: A second impeachment trial of Donald Trump. The confirmation of President Biden’s cabinet and other key officials. And legislation to provide much-needed, almost desperately needed COVID relief,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.

There’s quite a bit we can glean from Schumer’s statement, whispers around Washington and what we know about how the IRS organized the first and second stimulus checks that can help us anticipate what could happen with the next stimulus payment, and when. (Here’s everything to know about stimulus checks and your 2020 taxes, the top facts you should keep in mind and how you’ll need to contact the IRS if you think you’re missing all or some of your first two payments.) This story updated with new information.

Will Congress approve a third stimulus check in February or March?

Right now, Biden’s stimulus proposal is just that — a framework. It will have to begin to transforming into a law, with all the legal language that can come under extraordinary scrutiny and debate. We know that Biden’s first 10 days in office will focus on a raft of executive actions. Biden can’t send stimulus checks by executive order. 

According to a newsletter from Punchbowl News, a Capitol Hill-based publication founded in January by former Politico journalists

House Democrats now tell us they are aiming to pass Joe Biden‘s massive Covid relief package by late February or early March, according to multiple sources involved in the effort.”

Part of the equation is how long a debate within Congress could drag on. After more than seven months of heated and at times bitter negotiations between Democrats and Republicans over December’s stimulus bill, it’s impossible to know how long it will take to see Biden’s stimulus proposal — or a future version of it — go through the paces to become a bill, and for that bill to go up for a vote in the House of Representatives and Senate and become law. 

With the Democrats’ slim margin of control over both chambers in Congress, Biden may have an advantage getting his objectives approved, though opposition is already vocal from members of his own party over the $1,400 per person maximum, with some pushing for $2,000 per person and at least one other questioning why Americans need a third check.

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Second stimulus checks: Everything you need to know


How fast could the IRS start sending the third stimulus checks?

In under three weeks, the IRS and Treasury sent over 100 million second stimulus checks. There was a tremendously fast turnaround with the second check. For example, it took the IRS 19 days from the date the March 2019 stimulus bill passed to the day the first check was issued. Conversely, the Dec. 27 stimulus package gave the IRS just 17 days total, including weekends

Now that those payments have entered Phase 2 (if you didn’t get yours, you have to claim it as part of tax season 2020), questions are already swirling around how the IRS and Treasury would handle a third stimulus check.

There was one notable direct deposit error as a result of the IRS’ rush to get payments delivered, and people who didn’t get their payment may now have to wait weeks or months for their second checks. But the scenario suggests that if the protocols are in place, the IRS could theoretically ship out third stimulus checks within days and weeks, rather than weeks and months.

As an interesting data point, the IRS was able to process between 5 million and 7 million a week with the first stimulus check, according to a government report from June.


How you get your second stimulus check could also influence how soon your payment arrives.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Would a third stimulus check use the same IRS payment groups as before?

What are IRS payment groups? A way we noticed that the IRS seems to organize when payments go out to certain categories of people based on the method of payment. 

The main ones are people who get their checks through direct deposit (the largest group, and the quickest deliver), through paper checks in the mail and through EIP debit cards, a method that the IRS has told CNET gets payments out faster than physical checks, but which was also the last payment method to go out both stimulus check rounds. It also requires you to activate a prepaid debit card.

The other groups that are loosely defined (by us) include social security beneficiaries, who received payments a different way the first time if they’re part of the SSI or SSDI programs, and people with more complex scenarios, which could lead to potential issues or holdups receiving their money. People in child support situations have been an example, and so have people who are incarcerated, and those with more complex citizenship scenarios.

Would the IRS impose a deadline with the third check? Would it have anything to do with taxes?

The Jan. 15 deadline levied for the second stimulus check was written into the text of the bill, without explanation. It isn’t immediately clear if the bill text would adopt another cutoff in the future, or if that was a one-time consideration that took into account the IRS’ overlapping duties to process stimulus checks and prepare for Tax Season 2020. Last year, the April 15 tax date was extended to July 15.

The two overlap with the second stimulus check in that anyone who didn’t receive all or part of their second payment must claim it as part of the IRS’ Recovery Rebate Credit on their tax return — even if they have nonfiler status and aren’t typically required to file taxes.

Let’s say hypothetically that a stimulus bill were to pass in early March and the checks began shipping in mid-March, that overlaps with month before the April 15 tax deadline. By that time, tens of millions of Americans may have already received their tax refunds, which could make it tricky for the IRS to straighten out or redact after issuing. Things could get tricky whether the IRS would attempt to fold a third check delivery into the remaining tax cycle, or send a third check separately.

How could I potentially get a third stimulus check faster?

While we don’t know when a third stimulus check could arrive, there are a few things you can do to help speed up receipt of your check, when and if it happens. For example, signing up for direct deposit in your 2020 tax return would put you in the priority category if a third stimulus payment came to be.

And if you’ve moved recently, tell the IRS and USPS. Here were our other suggestions for people to get their second checks faster. Note that, there could be some changes to qualifications that may not apply to a possible third stimulus check.  

Will a third stimulus check aboslutely happen?

Whether a third stimulus check happens or not, and which form it could take, is up to Congress. The rest, for now, is the basis of today’s public conversations in government, and our educated guesses. There’s always a significant chance that a bill may pass one chamber and not the other, or fail entirely. For now, we watch and wait.

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