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Will there be a stimulus check before the new year? What we know about Congress' $900 billion deal

Congress is close to agreeing on a $600 stimulus check—here's when you might see your second check, based on the timing of the first round.

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At long last, lawmakers are closing in on a bipartisan $900 billion coronavirus relief deal that could give the hardest-hit Americans some much-needed cash — albeit, a smaller amount than many had hoped.

Congress has until 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 19 to come to an agreement over the long-anticipated emergency relief package that would reportedly include direct payments of $600 to $700 per individual and enhanced unemployment benefits.

It's not a done deal, but lawmakers were quoted speaking optimistically this week about the possibility of a resolution before the weekend.

If the deal passes, politicians have said that the stimulus check distribution could be put in motion right away, especially now that the IRS's distribution tool is already set up from the last round of checks sent in the spring. Back in August, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the IRS could start processing checks "immediately" and get the first batch out within a week (at a rate of 50 million per batch).

But given what we know about the last round, exactly when the next stimulus check will show up in your checking account depends on a few factors.

If the IRS already has your direct deposit information on file, you'll likely be within the first few groups to receive the money electronically. If you signed up for direct deposit with the IRS when you filed your 2018 and/or 2019 taxes — and your account information is the same — you'll probably be toward the front of the line. With the CARES Act, recipients whose information was up-to-date got their payments within a few weeks.

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Social security (SSI) and/or disability (SSDI) recipients may also be in one of the first waves, as their banking and contact information is likely current. With the first stimulus payment, many people on Social Security (who also had direct deposit information on file with the IRS) received payments in the first week, reports CNET. But given the upcoming holidays, it could be more likely that the money will arrive in early 2021.

If your bank account is not on file with the IRS (meaning you got your last tax return by mail and/or your information is changed since then), you will likely receive a paper check or a prepaid Visa debit card, also known as an economic impact payment (EIP) card.

Both paper checks and EIP cards can be mailed at a rate of five to seven million per week, reports CNET. During the last round, the IRS prioritized checks based on income, starting with Americans making less than $20,000 per year and moving progressively to those with higher incomes.

If you still haven't gotten your first stimulus check, you can apply for the Recovery Rebate Credit when you submit your 2020 taxes this coming spring. In essence, the credit will serve to compensate you for the outstanding stimulus money you're owed. Learn more about the rebate credit and check your check's status with the IRS here.

Bottom line: Will there be a stimulus check before the new year?

Time is running out for anyone to receive a $600 check before New Year's Eve. The earliest payments would go to those whose direct deposit information is already on file with the IRS, but the longer Congress stalls, the less likely your check will arrive in 2020.

The safest bet is to budget as if the payment is going to arrive in January or, more conservatively — later on in 2021.

By that point, President-elect Biden may have additional plans for economic relief, including student loan forgiveness, small business support, increased Social Security checks and more.

Uneasy about waiting so long for a stimulus check?: Here's what a financial planner says to do in the mean time.


Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the CNBC Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.