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Will Social Security Recipients Get Their Second Stimulus Checks Automatically?

The IRS started making payments to federal beneficiaries, others on Dec. 29

collage of US Capitol dome with cash and social security card

Backyard Productions / Alamy Stock Photo

En español | Most people who got a $1,200 stimulus payment last year via direct deposit will get their second-round $600 stimulus payment the same way — and likely more quickly than they did in 2020 — according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). That includes beneficiaries of Social Security, Railroad Retirement and other federal programs.

Automatic payments on the way

The $900 billion pandemic relief bill signed into law on Dec. 27 called for $600 stimulus payments to qualifying adults and child dependents. Individuals who reported adjusted gross income (AGI) of $75,000 or less on their 2019 tax returns will receive the full $600 ($150,000 or less AGI for couples filing jointly; $112,500 or less for heads of household). For people who earned more than those amounts, the size of the check will gradually decrease by $5 for every $100 earned over that threshold. Eligible dependent children under the age of 17 will also get $600 payments, up from $500 dependent payments in the first round of stimulus. Adult dependents claimed on someone else's tax return are not eligible for the additional payment.

The IRS will rely on the information they received when pushing out the earlier $1,200 checks to distribute the new $600 stimulus checks. Essentially, everyone who got a stimulus check in 2020 and who still qualifies will get a second check this year. That includes Social Security retirement beneficiaries and railroad retirees, as well as those receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. The IRS began sending direct deposit payments to bank accounts on Dec. 29. It started mailing payments on Dec. 30.

"Most Social Security retirement and disability beneficiaries, railroad retirees and those receiving veterans’ benefits do not need take any action to receive a payment,” the IRS announced on Dec. 29. “Earlier this year, the IRS worked directly with the relevant federal agencies to obtain the information needed to send out the new payments the same way benefits for this group are normally paid. For eligible people in this group who didn't receive a payment for any reason, they can file a 2020 tax return."

Because the IRS already has their direct deposit or mailing information on file from tax returns, benefit statements or directly from other government agencies, most federal beneficiaries should get their $600 stimulus payments automatically. During the first round of stimulus checks, AARP worked hard to ensure that Social Security recipients and other federal beneficiaries received their payments. The IRS says federal beneficiaries who received their first stimulus payments via Direct Express should receive their second payments the same way.

Those who registered with the IRS Non-Filers Tool by Nov. 21 or who filed a 2019 tax return will also get their payments sent automatically. The Non-Filers Tool is currently closed. You can check the status of your stimulus payment with the IRS Get My Payment tool, although you may have to wait during high-traffic periods. 

The electronic payments are coming swiftly. Eugene Harris of Reston, Virginia, got his $600 stimulus payment on Jan. 2, less than a week after the second round of stimulus checks was approved. Harris is collecting Social Security benefits, and he also filed a 2019 tax return. His first stimulus check arrived promptly, as well, in April, soon after the payments were authorized in late March.


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Check your mailbox

The IRS encourages people to check their mailboxes carefully in January for their second stimulus payments, particularly if they received their earlier stimulus payment by mail. Some people who received paper checks in 2020 might get their stimulus payment via debit card this time, or vice versa.

The debit card will be sent in a white envelope that prominently displays the U.S. Department of the Treasury seal. It has the Visa name on the front of the card, according to the IRS, and the issuing bank, MetaBank N.A., on the back of the card. Information included with the card will explain that this is an economic impact payment.

People receiving stimulus payments in any form should also get an IRS notice in the mail a few days after they receive a payment telling them the amount of their payment. Even though the payment is not taxable, the IRS recommends that you keep this written notice for your tax records.

Anyone, including Social Security and other federal beneficiaries, who is still missing all or part of a stimulus payment as of the end of January can claim the money on their 2020 federal tax return on line 30 of their 1040 in the form of what's called a recovery rebate tax credit. The IRS typically starts processing tax returns by late January or early February.

No action is required at this time to receive a stimulus payment in January, and the IRS and the Social Security Administration are asking that individuals do not call to inquire about the status of a payment, since information is not available by telephone.

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