Financial assistance is on the way for millions of Americans who have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis through work furloughs, layoffs, pay cuts, or illness.

In March, 2020 Congress passed something called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion relief package that entitles most Americans to a tax-free stimulus check of up to $1,200. Married couples will be eligible for a stimulus check of up to $2,400, and children will be eligible for stimulus checks of up to $500. (Read more about that here.)

The Department of the Treasury is expected to start releasing Covid-19 stimulus checks by mid-April.

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions. 

How can I get my stimulus check faster? 

  • If you already filed your 2019 taxes and signed up for direct deposit of your tax refund, the relief money will be automatically deposited into the bank account you indicated on your tax forms. If you haven’t filed your 2019 taxes yet, the IRS will use information from your 2018 return.
  • If you haven’t filed taxes for either 2018 or 2019, the IRS is urging people to do so as quickly as possible. 
  • The U.S. Treasury also recently launched an online portal, where you can securely enter your bank account information for a direct payment. You can access it here.
  • If you already signed up to direct deposit your tax refund into your Stash banking account when you filed your 2019 taxes, the relief money should also be deposited into your Stash account. If you’re eligible to receive the payment, it will be deposited automatically—you don’t need to do anything further. If you haven’t filed your 2019 taxes yet, the IRS will use information from your 2018 return. If you haven’t filed either your 2019 or your 2018 tax return, you can also go to the IRS CARES Act online portal and provide your Stash banking account and routing number to make sure that your stimulus check is deposited into your account*.
  • Note: If you did not sign up for direct deposit with your 2018 or 2019 tax returns, and you don’t use Treasury’s portal, you will be mailed a paper check, but that process is likely to take up to several months, according to some sources.
  • You can check the eligibility status and review FAQs here.

Will I get a stimulus check?

Nine out of ten households will be eligible for some amount of money, according to the Tax Policy Center.

If you had adjusted gross income (AGI) of $75,000 or less, or $150,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return, you should qualify for the full amount of stimulus money—$1,200 for individuals, and $2,400 for married couples filing a joint return. Children will be eligible for stimulus checks of up to $500. These are one-time payouts.

The amount of money you’re eligible for begins to phase out increments of $5 for every $100 you earn above the AGI thresholds, phasing out at $99,000 for individuals, and 198,000 for married couples filing jointly.

Find out more from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

You can also check out Stash’s Covid-19 stimulus check calculator here.

What if I don’t have to file a tax return? 

People who don’t typically file tax returns may include many senior citizens, Social Security recipients, and retired railroad workers. The IRS says it will use information on the form SSA-1099 or form RRB-1099 to generate payments for these groups. 

If you didn’t file your tax return for some other reason, such as not earning enough income, you can still use the IRS online portal to apply for a stimulus check.

What’s the history of stimulus checks? 

Stimulus checks are meant to stimulate the economy. When people stop spending, the economy contracts and companies go out of business. That only increases the financial pain, as these companies lay off workers, who in turn stop spending because they stop getting regular paychecks.

Congress also passed a financial relief act at the height of the last financial crisis called the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008. It provided many Americans with financial assistance through various tax credits.

In addition to helping the economy, stimulus check money is meant for you to use to meet basic living expenses, such as paying your rent or mortgage, paying your bills, or purchasing essentials like groceries. If you don’t need the money immediately, consider saving it as part of an emergency fund.

Special note: Beware of anyone offering to get you your stimulus money sooner than federal government channels will allow. The Federal Trade Commision has assembled this information page to help protect you against stimulus check scams.