What You Need to Know About the US Stimulus Checks

The economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are striking and may be felt for months or years to come. The good thing is there have already been new US regulations set in place to protect folks from evictions, updates to eligibility rules for unemployment benefits, and forbearance options for people with mortgages or student loans. The new CARES Act recently signed into law also seeks to address some of the economic consequences that are resulting from the pandemic. 

While it’s only one piece of the puzzle, the individual stimulus checks being distributed as part of the CARES act will help provide some relief for folks who need it most. If you’re like us, you might be a bit confused about what these checks are and whether or not you’re eligible to receive one. So let’s dive in.

What is the stimulus check?

The US government has been hard at work passing legislation to both stimulate the economy and provide a safety net for those most vulnerable in our communities. The stimulus check is part of that legislation, and offers relief in the form of a direct deposit — or a physical check — that will help folks buy necessities during the pandemic. As of now, the checks are slated to be one-time only. 

How much can you expect and are you eligible? 

Your eligibility is based on your 2018 tax return, or your 2019 tax return if you’ve filed it already. Your Adjusted Gross Income, the status you filed your tax return with, and the number of children you have are all factors used to determine exactly how much you’ll receive. The maximum amount per adult is $1,200. Those who meet the income requirement and have a qualifying child (meaning, 16 years old or younger) will also receive $500 per qualifying child. 

Here’s the breakdown of folks that will receive the full $1,200: 

  • Single filers earning $75,000 or less
  • Head of Household filers earning $112,500 or less, plus the additional $500 per qualifying child
  • Married filing jointly earning $150,000 or less, plus the additional $500 per qualifying child

If you earned more than those thresholds amounts, you may still be eligible to receive a check, and you can find out exactly how much by using an online stimulus check calculator

You’re eligible; How do you get the money? 

If you filed taxes and had your refund direct deposited into your bank account or paid taxes via your bank account, you won’t need to do anything. You should automatically see that money appear in your account. The same is true for folks who don’t file taxes but receive Social Security benefits. 

If you filed and paid any owed taxes via your bank account, know that the IRS cannot use that account information to direct deposit the stimulus check. Plan to wait for a paper check, or provide the IRS with your account information so the check can be direct deposited. 

If you didn’t file taxes and aren’t receiving Social Security, you can wait for a paper check to arrive, but you may be waiting weeks to months. The IRS has made it possible for you to receive the disbursement faster if you provide them with your account information. That way, your check can be deposited to your bank account directly. 

If you’ve moved since the last time you filed your taxes and chose to have your refund sent to you by mail, you’ll need to let the IRS know your new address so they can send the check to the correct place. Head to the IRS website to update your contact info.

Lastly, if you don’t have a bank account, there are still options for you to get your check. If you need the stimulus check sooner than later, try opening a bank account now and then let the IRS know your account information.You can also wait to find out if the government will create an option that allows folks to use prepaid debit cards, which don’t require an actual bank account. Finally, for folks that don’t mind waiting a bit longer, you can wait for the physical check to come in the mail. 

When can you expect the money?

If eligible, the government says you can expect your direct deposited check to come “ASAP.” The first wave of direct deposits was on April 12, and some people have confirmed they’ve received those deposits. For folks receiving paper checks, you may be waiting as long as September due to the fact that the IRS no longer has the infrastructure or staffing needed to get those checks out faster. If you need the money sooner, let the IRS know your bank account information so they can deposit the payment into your bank account. With that said, the IRS has launched a ‘Get My Payment’ portal so folks can stay updated on their status of their payment. 

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Get the latest in budgeting content — straight into your inbox.

Thank you!

See you in your inbox.

Search for


Say hello to Goodbudget

  1. A strong philosophy.
    Transform your financial life with the Goodbudget Way.
  2. A time-tested system.
    Goodbudget is based on the envelope budgeting method.
  3. Great budget software.
    Available for the Web, Android, and iPhone. Get started with Goodbudget. Sign up now!

Get Help




8 thoughts on “What You Need to Know About the US Stimulus Checks”

  1. How will this affect those of us on a fixed income, whether because of early retirement or disability? Will it count against our monthly/yearly allowed income?

    • Hi Joan – That’s a great question! Yes, you are eligible for the economic impact payment (stimulus check). And because it’s not considered income, it also doesn’t affect eligibility for other government assistance / benefit programs (e.g. disability, social security retirement). You can also check out the IRS website if you have other questions about your eligibility. Specifically, Q2 has more info about eligibility and confirms that folks receiving SSI are indeed eligible. We hope that helps!

    • Hi Teresa – Thanks for letting us know! Can you exactly where you see that contradictory info? We’ll work on updating that ASAP.

  2. Do we have to accept this check? How can we just return it to the government. I heard it is really considered an “advance” on our income tax return for 2021 returns (2020 tax filing) and that we would have to “pay it back” at that time.

    • Hi Rachel – Thanks for your question! The stimulus check is not an advance on your income tax return — these economic impact payments are totally separate from your tax returns. And, they will not have to be paid back. Check out Q20 on the IRS Information Center for more detail, as well as answers to other questions you may have. Thanks again

Leave a Comment