Stimulus checks still haven't reached 9 million people — how to claim yours [updated with new deadline]

Illustration of hundred-dollar bills and a check from the U.S. Treasury poking out of a manila envelope against the backdrop of the American flag.
(Image credit: ungvar/Shutterstock)

UPDATE: The IRS has extended this deadline by another five weeks. 

Even as the possibility of stimulus check 2 continues to get dimmer and dimmer, nearly 9 million Americans may still be waiting for their first $1,200 stimulus payment, which was provided by the CARES Act passed in March of  this year. 

CBS News reports that the IRS will soon begin notifying qualifying individuals who haven’t claimed their $1,200 benefits. Those people will have until Oct. 15 [now it's Nov. 21] to enter their information into the non-filer tool on in order to get their checks by the end of the year. 

Most of the outstanding payments are designated for individuals who don’t file regular tax returns, the primary benchmark the government uses to determine eligibility and send out benefits. Many non-tax-filers are older Americans living on savings or heads of low-income families. 

The IRS expects to send letters starting Sept. 24 to people who may be eligible for undistributed stimulus payments, which gives recipients a few weeks to use the non-filer tool to check their eligibility and claim their checks. If you miss the Oct. 15 deadline, you’ll have to file a tax return in 2021 to receive your payment. 

[On Oct. 5, the IRS extended the deadline from Oct. 15 to Nov. 21.]

Keep in mind that receiving a notice from the IRS does not guarantee that you’re eligible for stimulus benefits. If you do qualify, you can enter your bank-account information to get a direct deposit. Otherwise, you’ll get a paper check by mail. 

This isn’t the first round of notices the IRS has sent out regarding missing or supplemental payments. A number of individuals missed out on their dependent benefits due to confusion over outstanding child-support payments. Those recipients have until Sept. 30 to claim their additional benefits using the non-filer tool. 

What about stimulus check 2? 

Senate Republicans rolled out their "skinny" stimulus proposal in early September, but as expected, the bill failed to gain enough votes to advance. It's likely dead, but it didn't include a second round of stimulus checks.

Meanwhile, even though all parties agree on both the need for and the amount of stimulus check 2, disagreements over total spending for a second relief package as well as what else that package should contain have left the entire thing in limbo. 

Democrats and White House officials still have a $700 billion spending gap between their two negotiating positions. Both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) have said that any “skinny” bill without a stimulus check is a no-go. 

At the moment, it’s unclear whether the two sides will be able to break the impasse and restart negotiations. 

This story was originally published Sept. 10, 2020 and has been updated.

Emily Long

Emily Long is a Utah-based freelance writer who covers consumer technology, privacy and personal finance for Tom's Guide. She has been reporting and writing for nearly 10 years, and her work has appeared in Wirecutter, Lifehacker, NBC BETTER and CN Traveler, among others. When she's not working, you can find her trail running, teaching and practicing yoga, or studying for grad school — all fueled by coffee, obviously.