The $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package marks the largest rescue package in American history. President Trump announced Wednesday that it includes $300 million in direct payments to individuals to alleviate at least a little of the financial pain caused by the deliberate near-standstill of the U.S. economy.
But despite promises from Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that the one-time funds will be distributed "within the next three weeks," it will likely be months before the stimulus relief hits people's bank accounts according to experts.
Under the plan, single people earning incomes below $75,000 will receive as much as $1,200. Married couples would get $2,400, and parents would receive $500 for each child under age 17. Payments would be phased out beyond those income limits, and people making more than $99,000 will not be eligible at all.
How soon can I expect my check?
"It really depends on what information the IRS has on you," Kyle Pomerleau, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, told NPR.
That's because the infusion of cash will be distributed by the IRS, so those who have previously received tax refunds via direct deposit will be first in line for the rebate checks. Pomerleau estimates the earliest those payments will go out is 3 to 4 weeks after the package is approved.
Alternatively, those who receive tax refunds through the mail will have to hold out much longer.
"I don't think physical checks will be in the mail for another 3 to 4 months," Pomerleau said, citing delays in the system in 2008 when the government last issued national stimulus payments under the George W. Bush administration.
Back then the financial relief package was signed into law in February but the delivery date for people whose checks were sent through the mail was somewhere between May and July.
There's another group who may have an even longer wait: Those who receive tax refunds in the mail and have moved since filing 2018 taxes.
"So far there's no information on how [the IRS is] going to handle that," Pomerleau said.
What if I didn't file 2018 taxes?
Pomerleau says nonfilers, including recent college graduates, and those who didn't file 2018 taxes because they had no obligation, "would be left out unless they hurry up and file a return for 2019."
For Americans receiving Social Security benefits their funds will be based on information the government has on them for a direct deposit or check through the mail.
What if I made more than $99,000 in 2018 or 2019?
Those who earned more than $99,000 are not totally shut out from the massive relief package if they expect to make less than that sum in the coming year.
The IRS will allow tax filers to qualify for the relief aid next year, when filing 2020 taxes.
"That of course is no good for someone who needs to pay their bills today," Pomerleau said, "but all is not lost."