Personal Finance

Paper stimulus checks could be delayed by up to 5 months

Key Points
  • Individuals who receive their stimulus relief payments by mail could be in for a long wait, according to one Congressional timeline.
  • Individuals who do not have their personal bank account information on record will be at the biggest disadvantage, and that often includes the elderly and disabled.
  • While many of those individuals are on the hook to file tax returns in order to get their stimulus money, some say creating a web portal to enter their personal information would be a faster solution.
Aaron M. Sprecher | Bloomberg | Getty Images

If you're counting the days until you receive your stimulus money from the government, hold tight: It could take up to five months.

A House Ways and Means Committee memo obtained by NBC News on Thursday outlined a potential timeline for how soon the money could go out.

For individuals who receive the funds via direct deposit, that money will start moving to them as soon as the week of April 13, according to the memo.

But for Americans who get paper checks by mail, the wait could be a lot longer – up to five months.

The timeline is the latest development on the stimulus relief checks that were greenlighted by Congress last week. The money will amount to sums of up to $1,200 for individuals, or $2,400 for couples, based on their adjusted gross income. The $2 trillion legislation package also included other measures to help prop up the ailing economy, including beefed-up unemployment and small business loans.

Since the law was passed, more details on how – and when – the relief checks for individuals and families will be coming have been emerging.

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Those who have their direct deposit information on file should get their money much more quickly – "likely" the week of April 13, according to the memo. About 60 million individuals should get their money then.

"I think it does underscore how important it is for IRS and Treasury to set up a way for people to submit direct deposit information, because that will be a lot quicker for folks who need this relief sooner rather than later," Garrett Watson, senior policy analyst at the Tax Foundation, a think tank, said of the timeline.

If a simple web portal were created for people who want to submit or change their personal information, that would be a lot simpler than filing or amending a tax return, Watson said.

To get your information in and be part of the first batch of people to receive a check, you would need to get that in fast, "in the next week or so," Watson said.

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Those who will have the longest wait include those who receive paper checks, due to the fact that the IRS isn't expected to start issuing those payments until the week of May 4. From there, it is expected that about 5 million checks per week will be sent, which could take up to 20 weeks.

Low-income workers will get priority when it comes to the deployment of those paper checks.

The IRS and Treasury Department took a "major step" on Wednesday by announcing that individuals who receive Social Security benefits will not have to file a tax return in order to receive their stimulus checks, said Chuck Marr, director of federal tax policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank.

But the decision still leaves out many individuals who typically do not file tax returns, such as recipients of Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, a federal welfare program for elderly, disabled or blind people. Those people, as well as other financially disadvantaged people, are still currently on the hook to file tax returns in order to get their stimulus checks.

"There's millions of people in the country like that, even more so than the general Social Security population," Marr said. "We really would like to avoid having them to have to file a tax return during a pandemic. We're hoping that they will take a look at that."