COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments: Information and Resources

An Economic Impact Payment (aka a “stimulus check”) is money that the U.S. government is giving to qualifying individuals to help them during the COVID-19 crisis. This page presents an overview of the basic issues around Economic Impact Payments. We also recommend consulting the EIP Resource Page developed by Tipping Point Community for further information.

 

A qualifying individual who will receive an Economic Impact Payment is a US citizen, permanent resident or resident alien who –

  1. Has a valid Social Security number;
  2. Could not be claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer; and
  3. Has an adjusted gross income of less than $99,000 (singles) or $198,000 (joint filers)

 

  1. Single and earn less than $75,000/year → you can get $1,200.
  2. Married and file jointly and earn less than $150,000/year → you can get $2,400
  3. Head of household and earn less than $112,500 → you can get $1,200.
  4. You can get $500 for every child under 17 years old who you claim as a dependent.

  • You should automatically get your Economic Impact Payment if you filed your 2018 or 2019 tax returns.
  • You should automatically get your Economic Impact Payment if you got Social Security retirement, survivors or disability insurance (“RSDI”), Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), Veterans Affairs (“VA”) benefits or Railroad Retirement Benefits (“RRB”) before January 1, 2020. Visit https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/assets/materials/economic-impact-payments-for-social-security-and-ssi-recipients.pdf  for more information about the Economic Impact Payment rules for recipients of RSDI or SSI.
  • You will NOT automatically get your Economic Impact Payment if you have not filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return and you are not getting RSDI, SSI, VA or RRB benefits on or after January 1, 2020. To get your Economic Impact Payment, you will have to register as a Non-Filer by clicking on “Enter Your Information” at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here.
  • You will NOT automatically get an Economic Impact Payment for your dependent child(ren) if you have not filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return, and you did not register them on the Non-Filer website before May 5, 2020. To get an Economic Impact Payment for your child(ren), you will have to file a 2020 tax return with this information. Please seek out tax advice or assistance for support with this.
  • If you get CalWorks, CalFresh, General Assistance (“GA”) or if you have limited income and do not file a tax return, you will have to take action to get your payment. To get your Economic Impact Payment, you will have to register as a Non-Filer by clicking on “Enter Your Information” at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here.

  • To register online as a “Non-Filer”, you will need to provide your:
    • Date of birth;
    • Social Security number;
    • Bank account number, type and routing number if you have one (otherwise the IRS will send a check to your mailing address); and
    • For each qualifying child: name, Social Security number or Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number, and their relationship to you/your spouse.

**Note that there are no other deadlines to register for the Economic Impact Payment, so if you prefer to wait for in-person assistance to register, you can wait until the shelter-in-place rules have been lifted without losing your payment.

For general information on Economic Impact Payments, please visit https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center

 


 

There is a risk of fraud connected to Economic Impact Payments. Be careful!

 

Here are some important tips:

  • The IRS will not call you to ask for any personal information or bank account information related to the Economic Impact Payment.
  • Do not give this kind of personal information to anyone who calls you or emails you for it.
  • The IRS will never threaten you or ask for important information by email.
  • You do not need to pay anything to get the Economic Impact Payment.
  • The IRS won’t tell you to deposit your Economic Impact Payment then send them money back because they paid you more than they owed you. That’s a fake check scam.

 

For more information, please visit:

 


 

  • If you have a representative at Bay Area Legal Aid, please contact them with any questions.
  • If you have questions about filing taxes, consider contacting Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (“VITA”) which offers free, high quality tax preparation – at https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/1543 or https://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/ or by calling 800-906-9887
  • United Way of the Bay Area also provides free tax assistance. For more information, go to: https://earnitkeepitsaveit.org/ or call 2-1-1 for more information.
  • If you would prefer to get help in-person, you should wait until the shelter-in-place order has been lifted. You will not be penalized or lose your Economic Impact Payment if you wait.

  • You will get your payment in the same form that your government benefits or tax refund usually comes – either deposited directly into your bank account, deposited directly into your Direct Express card, or by check or debit card mailed to the mailing address you most recently provided.
  • If the IRS does not have your bank account or Direct Express card information, it will mail you a check at the address you most recently provided at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/non-filers-enter-payment-info-here.
  • The Treasury Department reports that as of mid-May they have begun to send nearly 4 million Economic Impact Payments by prepaid debit card, instead of by paper check. According to the Treasury press release:

    Treasury has already delivered more than 140 million Economic Impact Payments worth $239 billion to Americans by direct deposit to accounts at financial institutions, Direct Express card accounts, and by check. The Treasury-sponsored EIP Card is another method to provide money efficiently and securely to eligible recipients and their families. EIP Cards are being distributed to qualified individuals without bank information on file with the IRS, and whose tax return was processed by either the Andover or Austin IRS Service Center.

  • When you register online as a Non-Filer, you can request that a check be sent and provide a mailing address, instead of providing any bank information.
  • You can open up a new bank account now, or you can wait until the shelter-in-place rules are lifted to open one in person or to seek assistance for opening one in person. For more information about different options for opening up a new bank account, visit https://covidbanking.joinbankon.org/.

  • If you have a bank account or Direct Express card, you can request a direct deposit when you register as a Non-Filer online.
  • If you have a safe address, such as a non-profit organization or community based center, where you typically have important mail sent, you can wait until the organization re-opens and then register as online with that address (with the organization’s permission).

  • Banks should not be taking any amounts from your Economic Impact Payment to cover overdraft fees or other charges. However, if you are concerned that your bank will do so, you can either open up an account at a different bank just for your Economic Impact Payment, or you can request the payment as a check when you register online.

  • Unfortunately, the only way to register right now is through the online system. There is no phone number to call, so you will need access to a computer and an email address. However, if you would prefer to wait for in-person assistance to access a computer with an authorized representative or at a local IRS office, you should wait until the shelter-in-place rules have been lifted. You will not be penalized or lose your Economic Impact Payment if you wait.
  • You can create an email address to be used solely for purposes of Economic Impact Payment registration, but make sure to keep your information safe and confidential.
  • If you have a case manager, advocate, or attorney who is working with you on another matter, he or she may be able to help you register by phone.

 

  • Someone who is incarcerated may still be eligible for an EIP, though the IRS has given some conflicting advice. If you are denied an EIP, and you think it is because you were incarcerated (or if you got a lower EIP because your spouse was incarcerated), please reach out to your Bay Area Legal Aid representative, or call the Legal Advice Hotline at 1 (800) 551-5554.

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  • No – as long as you spend the Economic Impact Payment check in 12 months.
    • The payments are not considered a resource for 12 months.
    • The payments are not counted as income during the month they are received

  • The IRS will only take out from your stimulus money if you owe child support. Otherwise, the IRS will not use your money to pay for student loans, or a debt you owe someone.
  • Be careful of private creditors who may try to garnish payments from your bank account that you owe on outstanding court judgments. If you are concerned about a debt collector coming after your Economic Impact Payment for unpaid judgments, please contact the court to see if there is an outstanding writ of execution for the judgment, or call our Legal Advice Line at 1-800-551-5554.
  • If you have any questions or concerns about a person or entity trying to take part of your Economic Impact Payment for a prior loan, please contact our Legal Advice Line at 1-800-551-5554.

  • You will NOT automatically get an Economic Impact Payment for your dependent child(ren) if you have not filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return, and you did not register them on the Non-Filer website before May 5, 2020. To get an Economic Impact Payment for your child(ren), you will have to file a 2020 tax return with this information. Please seek out tax advice or assistance for support with this.

  • If you have a representative payee, your Economic Impact Payment will be deposited directly into the account that is managed by your representative payee, or your representative payee will receive a check in the mail with your payment.
  • The Economic Impact Payment belongs to the Social Security or SSI beneficiary, and is not considered a Social Security or SSI benefit that requires management or oversight by a representative payee.
  • For more information and frequently asked questions about representative payees, please visit: https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/?utm_content=pressrelease&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

[Information below is cited from the Social Security Administration website, accessed on May 1, 2020. BayLegal will make every effort to keep this information current, but we suggest also checking the SSA update page at https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/.

In certain situations, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may deposit a Social Security or SSI beneficiary’s EIP into an account managed by the representative payee, or the representative payee will receive a check.

The EIP belongs to the Social Security or SSI beneficiary. It is not a Social Security or SSI benefit. A representative payee should discuss the EIP with the beneficiary. If the beneficiary wants to use the EIP independently, the representative payee should provide the EIP to the beneficiary. If the beneficiary asks the representative payee for assistance in using the EIP in a specific manner or saving it, the representative payee can provide that assistance outside the role of a representative payee.

Under the Social Security Act, a representative payee is only responsible for managing Social Security or SSI benefits. An EIP is not such a benefit. A representative payee should discuss the EIP with the beneficiary. If the beneficiary wants to use the EIP independently, the representative payee should provide the EIP to the beneficiary. If the beneficiary asks the representative payee for assistance in using the EIP in a specific manner or saving it, the representative payee can provide that assistance outside the role of a representative payee.

Because an EIP is not a Social Security or SSI benefit, representative payees are not required to account for the EIP when they complete their annual accounting form.

Because an EIP is not a Social Security or SSI benefit, SSA does not have authority to investigate or determine whether the EIP has been misused. However, if SSA receives an allegation that the EIP was not used on behalf of the beneficiary, SSA may decide to investigate for possible misuse of the beneficiary’s Social Security or SSI benefit payments. SSA may also determine the representative payee is no longer suitable and appoint a new representative payee.