The CARES Act and Stimulus Payments

by Sheryl Harris , Director of the Department of Consumer Affairs

Calculator, pen and paper

Update 4/14/20: If you haven't filed taxes in the last few years or if the IRS might have trouble getting your stimulus payment to you because you changed banks or moved, you can update your info with the IRS here

The Coronavirus relief package (aka the CARES Act) is now law, meaning Americans who earned $75,000 or less will be receiving payments of up to $1,200 apiece.

People with slightly higher incomes will receive stimulus payments too, but the amounts will be smaller.

Here are some important things you should know about these payments:

  • They’re automatic. The IRS is issuing the refundable tax credits based on 2019 (or if you haven’t filed yet, your 2018) tax returns. They will be direct deposited or sent to the address the IRS has on file for you. You will not need to take any action to receive a stimulus payment.
  • You’re covered if you receive Social Security income. If you get Social Security payments, you’ll receive a stimulus check based your income, as reported by the Social Security Administration. You don’t need to file returns.
  • If you don’t receive Social Security benefits and haven’t filed a tax return because your income is low, consider filing now just to make sure you get a payment. The IRS provides a Free File Lookup Tool to connect you with free e-filing. If you need help filling out tax forms, contact 2-1-1.
  • Be alert for stimulus scams. Ignore robocalls, email, texts and social media posts that offer to help you get stimulus payments. The IRS is not making robocalls or sending texts. The Social Security Administration won’t call about issues with your Social Security account. There are no intermediaries who can help you get larger or faster stimulus payments.
  • So far, there’s no date when payments will be made. But you won’t miss hearing about it: The IRS will mail follow-up letters 15 days after it issues payments. The letter will include confirmation of the payment and information if you have questions or experience a problem. The IRS plans to post updates on stimulus payments at You may also want to check out the New York Times’ Q&A on the stimulus payments and other relief here.
  • Payments roughly break down this way:
    • $1,200 for a person who earned up to $75,000 (Double both amounts for couples filing jointly).
    • $1,200 for a person who earned up to $112,500 and filed as head of household (for example, a single parent).
    • Additional payments of $500 for each dependent child (age 16.or under)
    • Pro-rated payments (the amount drops $5 for each additional $100 earned) for individual filers who earn more than $75,000 and couples who earn more than $150,000. An individual filer who made $99,000 or more ($198,000 for couples) would be ineligible.
  • The relief payments from this bill may not help you if you made a lot last year but your income plunged this year. (Congress is already working on an additional relief package, so additional help may be on the way.) If you lost income this year, make sure you’re taking advantage of expanded unemployment benefits.