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Still waiting on your stimulus check? 5 possible reasons it hasn’t arrived yet

Published May 6th, 2020 2:21PM EDT
Stimulus check
Image: Eric Gay/AP Images
  • When Congress passed the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act at the end of March because of the coronavirus pandemic, it included among other things $300 billion meant to support direct emergency cash payments to Americans.
  • An estimated 175 million people should receive a payment as a result of this, but if you haven’t received your stimulus check yet, here are some possible reasons why.
  • Visit BGR’s homepage for more stories.

One of the hardest-to-deal-with aspects of the coronavirus pandemic that’s upended daily life in the US (and the rest of the world, for that matter) is the uncertainty. The uncertainty of not knowing who has the COVID-19 virus and where it’s rampaging at the moment; the uncertainty of whether protective measures that you’re taking in your own life are sufficient; and the economic uncertainty wrought by the virus, with tens of millions of Americans now out of work as the pandemic has utterly wrecked demand and catastrophically changed the financial fabric of so many of our lives.

Add to that last example not necessarily knowing when help will arrive. Congress passed a $2.2 trillion emergency stimulus bill at the end of March, but that was more than a month ago now — and despite the fact that the legislation provided funding for direct payments to Americans to help them weather this financial storm, millions of Americans still haven’t received a dime yet. Those payments include a maximum of $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples (with an additional $500 for each eligible child), and if you haven’t received one yet, here are some possible reasons why.

First, this list assumes you’ve already checked out the online “Get My Payment” tool the IRS set up to track your payment, which most Americans will be eligible to receive. There are, however, exceptions to every rule:

You’re behind on child support: If you’re not caught up on child support payments, the stimulus legislation allows this as the one exception for federal and state officials to seize your stimulus funds. The way this will work is individual states will be relied on to inform the US Treasury Dept. to identify individuals this applies to, and up to the entire amount of the stimulus check can be withheld, depending on the amount owed.

You haven’t filed a tax return in a while: The IRS is relying on direct deposit banking information in order to get the stimulus payments out the fastest to Americans. Millions of Americans, however, don’t make enough money to warrant filing a tax return, which would mean, in turn, the IRS doesn’t have banking information on file for them. You can use the “Get My Payment” tool to input your banking information to get your check direct-deposited quickly, otherwise you’ll have to wait longer for a paper check to arrive in the mail.

Your bank kept your money: If you have any kind of financial judgment levied against you, be aware: banks and credit collection agencies are allowed to seize your stimulus payment. Some states don’t allow this, but, unfortunately, some do let collection agencies freeze bank accounts to get access to this money.

You filed a paper tax return instead of e-filing: Related to the non-filing explanation above, some 89% of all federal tax returns in 2018 was filed electronically with the IRS. However, that still leaves a good chunk of filers (more than 17 million, in fact) who chose to go the old-fashioned paper route. Complicating matters this time around — if you filed a paper return for 2019, the IRS has stopped processing those because of the coronavirus, which means you need to visit the “Get My Payment” tool to leave your banking information.

Your income is too high: While it’s true that most Americans are intended to receive a stimulus check thanks to Congress’ emergency measure, it’s important to point out that there is an income threshold for the stimulus payments. If you’re single, married, or classified as a head-of-household taxpayer, and your adjusted gross income is $75,000, $150,000, and $112,500, respectively, you’ll get the full stimulus payment. If you make a little more than those amounts, you can qualify for a partial payment.

Andy Meek
Andy Meek Trending News Reporter

Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.