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Stimulus checks could arrive much more quickly this time around, experts say

“People are going to see this money at the beginning of next week,” says Mnuchin.

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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies during a hearing on "Examination of Loans to Businesses Critical to Maintaining National Security" before the Congressional Oversight Commission at Dirksen Senate Office Building, in Washington, December 10, 2020.
Sarah Silbiger | Pool | Reuters

After months of stalled negotiations, Congress has agreed on a $900 billion coronavirus relief package. The last-minute deal will include $300 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits, $284 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, and $25 billion in rental assistance.

The bill also features a second round of stimulus checks, a measure long supported by people on both sides of the aisle. This time around, instead of the $1,200 checks provided by the CARES Act in March, direct payments will be in the amount of $600 for individuals earning up to $75,000 per year, each individual in a married couple earning up to $150,000 per year, and single parent heads of households who earn less than $112,500 a year.

Eligible households with children will receive another $600 per child. There is no cap on the amount a household can receive. To find out how much your family could receive, try Grow's calculator.

How soon can you expect to get your stimulus check if you qualify? For many people, checks could come even quicker than they did the first time, according to Elaine Maag, principal research associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. Here's what she and other experts expect.

'People should be easier to find this time around'

The first time around, the IRS did not have many people's most up-to-date information like addresses and direct deposit details. This is, in part, because many people hadn't yet filed their 2020 tax returns and the IRS had to rely on information from 2019 tax returns instead. That slowed down the process.

"I am guessing that the new payment will be based on your 2020 return," says Maag, as that will include taxpayers' most recent data. This means "more people should be easier to find [for payments] this time around because their information with the IRS will be more up to date."

As for the people who don't normally file taxes, many will have already input their most up-to-date information in the IRS' non-filer portal. All of this should generally make the wait time to receive checks shorter.

'CARES Act payments began as soon as two weeks'

"CARES Act payments began as soon as two weeks after the law was passed for some people," says Maag. "It's hard for me to imagine things being even faster. But I've been surprised before."

Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate, also has some questions about how speedily money could reach Americans. "It still takes people and systems to execute at a time when people are working remote, and it is during the holiday season when others are off," he says.

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How to spend a stimulus check if you're employed

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"Mail and shipping have been hindered by overwhelming demand as consumers have gravitated to online purchases during the pandemic," he adds. "So getting an envelope from Point A to Point B could be more challenging this round."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, however, told CNBC on Monday that the checks are "a very, very fast way of getting money into the economy." The wait for these checks shouldn't be long: "People are going to see this money at the beginning of next week," he said.

"In the coming days and weeks," Hamrick suggests, "check the IRS website to see if there's information on the status of your payment."

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