The Treasury Department is about to kick off the distribution process that will get some much-needed cash to millions of Americans who are struggling because of COVID-19’s effects.

The good news is that in most cases, folks eligible for the economic relief payments created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act don’t have to do anything but wait.

Some, however, will have to wait longer than others.

Or maybe not. 

Treasury and the IRS are working on a way that could speed up delivery of some COVID-19 payments.

Automatic pandemic checks: The CARES Act created the relief payments to help ease some of the financial difficulty folks have found themselves facing due to COVID-19 business closings and job losses.

The new law tasked the IRS with disbursing the checks, which could be a maximum of $1,200 for single taxpayers, $2,400 for married couples who filed a joint return and $500 for each qualifying child age 16 or younger.

The IRS will make the payments, without us having to do a thing, based either our 2018 or 2019 tax year filings.

Where folks who filed returns for those tax years received refunds, the IRS will use that information to deliver the COVID-19 payments.

That’s especially good coronavirus payment news for folks who had the IRS directly deposit their tax refunds to checking or savings accounts. The IRS do the same and automatically deposit the COVID-19 money.

If, however, you asked for your refund to be mailed, then your coronavirus payment also will be delivered to you via the U.S. Postal Service.

And just like with tax refunds, the mailed coronavirus paper checks will take several weeks longer to arrive.

No refund, but COVID-19 payment eligible: Then there are folks who are eligible for COVID-19 payments, but didn’t get a refund and therefore didn’t include bank information on either year’s tax filing.

They are in the same slow money delivery boat as folks who got paper refund checks. The IRS will send them their economic relief payments as a real check to the address shown on their tax return. 

A friend, whom I’ll call Jimmy, finds himself in this predicament. He recently dropped me a note saying:

I would like to tell the IRS my bank info so they can deposit the pandemic check in our bank account. Unfortunately, I already filed my taxes [electronically] and paid my bill. The IRS instructions say to use our tax software to make the change to direct deposit, but when I tried to do this … I couldn’t since I had already filed. The software just got confused. Do you know anyone who might have an answer to this? … If we have to wait for the snail mail check for a few extra weeks we can do that, but the $2,400 would come in handy right now.

Jimmy, I have an encouraging answer for you and other folks who want to switch from COVID-19 paper checks to e-delivery.

Trading paper for direct deposit: The Treasury Department says it is developing “a web-based portal for individuals to provide their banking information to the IRS online, so that individuals can receive payments immediately as opposed to checks in the mail.”

When will this COVID-19 direct deposit online information portal be available? “In the coming weeks,” according to a statement updated by the IRS on April 2.

Even accounting for the “soon” vagueness, the portal’s arrival should shave some time off a payment you thought you were going to get by mail.

I’ll keep an eye on the emails I get from the IRS, as well as the agency’s special (now renamed) Coronavirus Tax Relief and Economic Impact Payments web page. I’ll let you know as soon as I see specifics on the direct deposit update option.

Coronavirus Caveat & More Information
In 2020, we’re all dealing with extraordinary circumstances,
both in our daily lives and when it comes to our taxes.
The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to reduce its transmission
and protect ourselves and our families means that,
for the most part, we’re focusing on just getting through these trying days.

But life as we knew it before the coronavirus will return,
along with our mundane tax matters.
Here’s hoping that happens soon!
In the meantime, you can find more on the virus and its effects on our taxes
by clicking Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Taxes.