CARES Act Payments: Get Yours Fast

Last Updated On: 5/12/2020 9:44:48 AM


To help with the coronavirus emergency Congress passed the CARES Act in March.  Among other things, the CARES Act provides money to almost all Americans, as fast as possible.  Individuals can get up to $1,200.  Couples can get up to $2,400.  Children under 17 can get up to $500.

Legal Aid has a separate set of Frequently Asked Questions titled “The Coronavirus “Stimulus Payments” – Who Is Eligible And How Are They Paid?” That set of FAQs focuses on who exactly can get a CARES Act payment, what the income limits are, who qualifies as a “child,” and many other details. 

In this FAQ we will focus on how the payments are sent out, and how to get your payment as fast as possible.

  • Filed tax returns for 2018 or 2019 WITH direct deposit information?  You don’t need to do anything else.  You should have gotten an electronic payment already.
  • Filed tax returns for 2018 or 2019 but did not include “direct deposit” bank information?  You will need to submit bank information to the IRS by May 13, 2020, through a special IRS web page.  Once you do that you will get electronic payments fairly soon after. If you miss the deadline, instead, you will likely get a paper check at the end of May or in June. 
  • Did not file a tax return at all in 2018 or 2019?  You may have to submit additional information, through a special IRS web page.  It isn’t a full on-line tax return, but it will take some time and attention.

Where do the CARES Act payments come from?

All payments are sent out by the IRS.  The IRS will use information it already has from tax returns for 2018 Income or for 2019 Income.

If the IRS can’t find the information it needs from those two years, it will have to take much slower steps.  It will send paper checks to the people it finds.  That process could take many months. Also, the IRS will surely miss some people if it has to take these slow steps. 

This FAQ is all about understanding how to make sure the IRS has your information quickly, so you can get your CARES Act payment faster.

I DID file a 2018 or 2019 tax return WITH direct deposit information.  Will I automatically get an electronic CARES Act payment?

Yes. You should have gotten your CARES Act payment directed deposited to your bank account in April 2020. 

The people who filed tax returns for 2018 or 2019 WITH direct deposit information were the first to get their payments.  The first payments were issued by the IRS on April 11. 

I DID file a 2018 or 2019 tax return, but WITHOUT Direct Deposit information.  Can I get an electronic payment?

Ifyou submit your bank account information to the IRS by MAY 13, 2020, you can get an electronic payment. The IRS has set up a web page for people who need to provide direct deposit bank account information.  Go to  Click on “Get Your Payment.” 

If you do not submit your bank information by MAY 13, 2020, you will get a paper check. The paper check will likely come at the end of May or in June. 

I did NOT file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 because I didn’t have to.  Can I get an electronic payment?

Yes. People who were “non-filers” (who didn’t file a return) can get an electronic payment.  HOWEVER:

  • Some people will get an electronic payment automatically. Those people don’t need to do anything else; but
  • Some people will not get an electronic payment unless they submit additional information to the IRS.

Which “non-filers” will get an electronic payment automatically?

You will get an automatic electronic payment if you received income from any of the following sources:

  • Social Security Retirement or Dependent benefits; or
  • Social Security Disability benefits; or
  • SSI (Supplemental Security Income) benefits; or
  • Benefits from the Veteran's Administration; or 
  • Railroad Retirement benefits.

If you get income from any of these sources, you will automatically get your payment by electronic deposit.  You do not need to submit any additional information, unless you have children in your household. If you have children and you want to get the $500 payment, read this question to learn more. 

Which “non-filers” will have to submit additional information in order to get an electronic payment?

If you did not have income from ANY of the four sources listed in the previous question, you should submit additional information.  This will assure that the IRS is aware of you and will put you in the fast lane (for electronic payment) instead of the slow lane (for paper checks).

The IRS has set up a special page for “non-filers” to provide information and get an electronic payment.  Go to In the center of the screen is a box titled “Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info Here.”  Near the bottom of that box is a button that says “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here.”  Click that button and it will take you to another page to enter the necessary information for your household. 

I did NOT file a tax return for 2018 or 2019 and I don't have a type of income that will automatically get an electronic paymen.  What information do I need to submit now through this IRS page?

You do not have to do an on-line tax return. But the process you have to do isn’t necessarily “easy.”  You will need to be careful. 

According to the IRS here is the information you will need:

  • Full name, current mailing address and an email address
  • Date of birth and valid Social Security number
  • Bank account number, type and routing number, if you have one
  • Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN) you received from the IRS earlier this year, if you have one
  • Driver’s license or state-issued ID, if you have one
  • For each qualifying child: name, Social Security number or Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number and their relationship to you or your spouse

You will have to go through several steps, and several different screens.  First, you will have to set up an account. After that you can begin to submit information. 

Collect all the information listed above.  Get someone to help you if you aren’t comfortable with doing things on-line with computer screens.  Be patient. Be careful.

If it takes an hour or two, and some frustration, that’s okay.  You’re going to get paid $1,200 for your time and effort.  Isn’t it worth it?

I receive one of those types of income, but I also have a child living with me.  What do I have to do to get the $500 child payment?

If you did not file a tax return, the IRS will not know that you have children in your household. Unfortunately, the deadline for adding information about children in your household has passed.  You are not out of luck, though.  You will just have to wait.  You will not be able to get the $500 per child payment until you file a tax return next year for 2020 income.

After I get the payment, can this money be taken out of my bank account because of other debts?

Yes, this can happen.  The CARES Act does NOT protect these payments from being attached in the normal court debt collection process.  The CARES Act payment money could be “attached” if the creditor (the person you owe money to) has already completed all the following steps:

  • Sued you for the debt; AND
  • Won a “judgment” that you owed the money; AND
  • Gotten a “Suggestee Execution” issued by the court to your bank, to attach funds in your bank account.

If you know you have an attachment already placed on your bank account, you can protect up to $1,100 of the money by filing a Personal Property Exemption form with the clerk of the court that issued the judgment.  Legal Aid has a lot more information about filing a Personal Property Exemption in this article.

If the money has already been deposited to your account, but not taken, you may want to take the payment out in cash as soon as possible.  This will help assure you’ll have the money to pay your rent, buy food, pay utilities, and cover other absolutely necessary bills.
If you haven’t yet provided direct deposit information for your payment, you may want to open a new bank account for the direct deposit.   

This is general legal information. For guidance about your situation, talk to a lawyer.