Surprise Stimulus Checks? Yes Please.

After more than two months, the IRS is still distributing stimulus checks from the most recent COVID-19 relief bill. And, a payment may be coming your way this week, even if you already received one.

A new batch of checks has just gone out, the ninth since March 12. The tax agency is sending money — more than $1.8 billion — to nearly 1 million Americans, including some who previously got partial payments in the current round.

All of the recipients recently filed their taxes, the IRS says. If you submitted your return over the last few weeks, there are two ways you may receive a dose of relief.

The first way: The IRS now knows how to find you

Don’t worry. This isn’t as ominous as it sounds.

More than half a million of the latest payments, totaling more than $1 billion, are going to eligible Americans who didn’t received a third stimulus check earlier, because the IRS didn’t know how to reach them with cash, the agency said Wednesday.

The tax people may not have had up-to-date banking information and couldn’t put a direct deposit in the pipeline, or maybe they didn’t have the correct mailing address and were unable to send a paper check or a debit card.

If you think you’re entitled to a stimulus check but a payment hasn’t shown up yet, it could be that the IRS can’t find a way to pay you. Get your taxes done by the May 17 deadline, and agency will have the information it needs to get you your missing money.

This applies even if you didn’t earn enough in 2020 to warrant filing a tax return. Do it anyway — because your low income makes it likely you qualify for a relief payment, and a tax return will give the IRS confirmation on where to send it.

The second way: You’re owed a ‘plus-up’

More than 460,000 of the new payments — another $800 million in stimulus — are what the IRS calls “plus-up” payments. They’re essentially bonus stimulus checks.

Plus-ups are supplemental payments for people who already have received money in the third round, though not the whole $1,400. Their earlier checks were based on their 2019 tax returns, which didn’t qualify them for a full payment.

If that’s your situation, you may now be eligible for a plus-up if you recently filed a 2020 tax return that shows your earnings were significantly lower last year than in 2019.

Individual taxpayers qualify for the full $1,400 if they filed a return showing adjusted gross income (total income minus some deductions) of $75,000 or less. Couples are in line for $2,800 if they have AGI of no more than $150,000.

Did your income take a dive last year because of the COVID crisis? The only way the IRS can know is if you file your taxes. Otherwise, you may have to settle for a smaller “stimmy” than you’re entitled to.

If you’re not due any dough

The number of people receiving payments from the IRS is getting smaller by the week, and a fourth round of stimulus checks may not be in the cards. If you need to boost your cash flow, there are a few different things you can do.

  • Get serious about saving. It’s safe to say most of us spend money needlessly. Cancel streaming services and other monthly subscriptions you’re not using. Resist the urge to order dinner deliveries and go to the grocery store with a list you can stick to.
  • Slash the cost of your debt. Credit cards may have been your life preserver during the pandemic, but their high interest costs can sink your finances. You can pay off your debts more quickly by rolling your balances into a lower-interest debt consolidation loan.
  • Refinance your mortgage. If you’re a homeowner and haven’t refinanced your mortgage in the last year, you could be missing out on some serious savings. Now that the rate on the typical U.S. mortgage is under 3% again, mortgage data and technology provider Black Knight says 13 million homeowners can save an average $283 a month with a refi.
  • Find cheaper insurance. Some car insurance companies have been offering discounts because customers have cut way back on their driving during the pandemic. If your insurer isn’t so generous, it may be time to find yourself a better deal. A little comparison shopping could save you hundreds on homeowners insurance, too.
  • Invest — a little at a time. You don’t need money from the IRS to participate in today’s record-breaking stock market. A popular app allows you to invest in a diversified portfolio using nothing more than “spare change” from everyday purchases.