stimulus legislation

Why Your Coronavirus Stimulus Check Isn’t Here Yet

A man who owes you money. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Nearly a month after IRS deposited the first round of coronavirus stimulus checks into Americans’ bank accounts, Uncle Sam still hasn’t paid everyone what they’re due. As of last Friday, the IRS had sent out 130 million payments of roughly $200 billion. That leaves some 20 million U.S. residents waiting for their cut of relief funds. Here’s a quick primer on who is entitled to relief under Congress’s recently passed CARES Act, why you might not have received your check yet, and what you can do to make sure the IRS eventually gives you what you’re owed.

Who is eligible for a stimulus check (and how large should that check be)?

If you file your taxes as an individual and earned less than $75,000 a year (as measured by adjustable gross income), you are entitled to a $1,200 check. Those who earned between $75,000 and $99,000 are still entitled to some relief. But the dollar value of their checks will decline by $5 for every $100 they earned above $75,000.

If you file your taxes as a married couple (or are married and do not file taxes) and earned less than $150,000, then you’re eligible for a $2,400 check. As with individuals, those who earned between $150,000 and $198,00 are still entitled to some relief, but the size the check declines as your income goes up.

If you are unmarried but file your taxes as head of your household, you should get the full $1,200 check so long as you earned below $112,500. Those who earned under $136,500 will receive checks of lesser value.

Finally, families who earned less than the income cap are entitled to a $500 payment for each child in their care.

Why some eligible Americans still haven’t received their checks (and what they can do about it).

Congress put the IRS in charge of dispersing the coronavirus relief payments, and the IRS can distribute those payments most easily to Americans who have already provided the agency with their banking information in order to receive a tax refund as a direct deposit. Thus, the first round of payments were issued to the subset of eligible Americans who requested and received direct-deposit tax refunds in 2018 and/or 2019.

According to a CBS MoneyWatch analysis of IRS numbers, West Virginia has seen the highest percentage of taxpayers receive their stimulus and New Jersey has seen the lowest. That discrepancy, CBS notes, “likely comes down to residents’ income, tax filing status and bank account information.”

The best bet for those hoping to get a check sooner rather than later is to enter their bank account information on the IRS’s “Get My Payment” tool. The deadline to do so is Wednesday at 12 p.m. For those who miss the deadline or prefer paper checks, relief will start arriving later this month, the IRS said. “After noon Wednesday, the IRS will begin preparing millions of files to send to (the Bureau of Fiscal Services) for paper checks that will begin arriving through late May and into June,” the agency said in a press release Friday.

Why you may be getting the message “Payment Status Not Available” when trying to use the IRS’s “Get My Payment” tool.

Many Americans have reported getting this frustrating message when attempting to check on the status of their aid checks. The Washington Post last month reached out to the IRS about the problem, which told the paper that users could hit this wall for any of the following reasons:

• You aren’t eligible for a payment.

• Your payment is based on your status as a Social Security, disability, Veterans Affairs or Railroad Retirement beneficiary.

• In this case, the IRS will use your SSA or RRB Form 1099 payment information.

• Your payment information isn’t available on the “Get My Payment” tool.

• You have not filed a 2018 or 2019 federal tax return. You filed your 2019 return, but it hasn’t been fully processed.

• You used the non-filers tool, but the information you entered is still being processed. There’s a problem verifying your identity when answering the security questions.

Some suggestions for getting past this problem include typing your address in all caps, using periods after abbreviations in your address, and finding an old tax return to ensuring you’re typing in the same address that IRS used to mail your return.

Why your check may have been too small.

If you are a parent or guardian who receives Social Security retirement, survivors, disability, or SSI benefits, you may have received a $1,200 boost to your benefits but no accompanying $500 payment for each of your children. In order to access those child benefits, you will need to use the tool for non-filers at and input the Social Security number or Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number of each of your dependents.

You can find more information about the CARES Act’s other relief programs, including those aimed at small businesses and the unemployed, here and here.

Why Your Coronavirus Stimulus Check Isn’t Here Yet