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For many, the $1,200 stimulus check never came. These tips might help you find out why

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How to tell if you are one of the many Americans still owed stimulus money

News the government would send out $1,200 stimulus checks had many Americans overjoyed this spring.

But for some people, that has been followed by an unexpectedly long wait for the money.

Verleen Conic, 56, of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, is one of those people. Conic said she was perplexed when the $2,400 she was expecting for both her and her husband did not come.

Both Conic, a U.S. Army veteran, and her husband receive federal benefits, so she thought they would already be in the system.

After inquiring with the IRS, she found out that a check had been issued on May 5, though she never received it.

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"They told me that they had no way of issuing another check," Conic said. "And they wouldn't let me give my information again when I went to their website."

Nevertheless, she tried to enter their banking information online and inquired with the agency as to where the check was every two weeks. Then, earlier this month, Conic decided to contact her congressman's office.

Conic finally received the money on Aug. 25. The money will help the couple pay for their grandchildren's back-to-school supplies and other bills.

But it would have been helpful to have had it this spring, she said, when her grandchildren, who live with her, first had to be home schooled.

"When you're on a fixed income and you have extras added on, it's kind of stressful financially," Conic said.

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So who's getting the stimulus checks?

The stimulus checks were authorized by Congress through the CARES Act in March. They called for payments of up to $1,200 per person or $2,400 per married couple who file jointly, as well as $500 per eligible dependent under age 17.

The Treasury Department and IRS began rushing out the one-time payments in April. Within two months, they sent about 159 million payments.

That was record progress, according to Janet Holtzblatt, senior fellow at the Urban Brookings Tax Policy Center.

But delivery of the money after that was reportedly slow. About 1.5 million payments were sent in the following month, even though the government had estimated it would send 171 million total checks.

That prompted Democratic leaders on the House Ways and Means Committee to call the progress "unacceptable."

I am sympathetic, because these are real people who want their checks.
Steven Mnuchin
U.S. Treasury Secretary

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the government continues to work to fix the payment issues in response to lawmakers' questions during a July Congressional hearing.

"I am sympathetic, because these are real people who want their checks," Mnuchin said.

Those who are eligible for checks who do not receive them this year will still be eligible for the money when they file their 2020 tax returns in the spring.

But for people who feel they need the money now, that is little consolation.

'I don't know why I'm overlooked'

Niko_Cingaryuk | iStock | Getty Images

"It's something that I thought was coming to me, and I don't know why I'm overlooked," said Thomas Wansaw, 59, of Wilmington, Delaware.

Wansaw, who lives on a fixed income, said he should be eligible for the money based on his 2018 tax return. But every time he tries to use the IRS' Get My Payment tool, he gets the same answer indicating his information does not match their records.

"That $1,200 would make all the difference in the world," Wansaw said. "All I was going to do with it is pay bills and get caught up."

The IRS is making efforts to reach those who were shut out of the initial payment deployments.

That includes deadlines for non-filers to submit their information by Oct. 15 in order to get their money this year. People who receive federal benefits but who did not get $500 payments for their qualifying children have until Sept. 30 to submit information for those payments through the same non-filer tool. Other families who were also missing those $500 dependent payments should receive them soon, if they haven't already.

About 50,000 people whose payments were withheld due to their spouse's unpaid child support are also slated to receive catch-up payments in the coming months, according to the IRS.

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Make your own stimulus check

The agency is also slated to send out more checks to Americans who are eligible and who didn't receive them as it continues to process 2019 tax returns, according to its website. While information on those payments will not appear on the agency's Get My Payment tool online, the IRS will send a letter confirming the money was sent.

Those most at risk of not receiving their payments include the non-filers, according to Holtzblatt.

"The challenge for this group is that many of them, being low-income, do not have access to the internet," Holtzblatt said. "They may not even know that they are eligible for this payment."

The responsibility will fall on community organizations to help these people meet the Oct. 15 deadline, and to reach out to those people who might not even know they are eligible for the money, she said.

No check yet? Take these steps 

Those who have not received a check by now who believe they should have may want to consider taking several actions.

First, revisit the IRS rules to make sure you are, in fact, eligible to receive a check based on your income and filing status, among other factors. If you are over 17 and were claimed as a dependent by someone else, for example, you do not qualify for a check. 

Consult the IRS Get My Payment tool to see if your status was updated, or call the phone number the agency has set up for queries: 800-919-9835. 

Also, consider contacting your bank to see if it received a deposit.

Finally, if you know a payment was issued but never made its way to you, consider putting a trace on it.

Conic also recommends contacting your local congressional representative, which she credits for helping her finally receive her money last week.

"They need to make their congressmen work for them," she said. "They elected their congressmen."