COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments: Information and Resources

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Last update: February 3, 2021.


If you are having trouble accessing your Economic Impact Payment (aka “stimulus payment”), or if you are trying to help another person having a problem with their payment:

  • Let one of our attorneys working on EIP issues know about the barriers you are encountering, using this confidential referral form.
  • Call our Legal Advice Line at (800) 551-5554.

An Economic Impact Payment (also known as a “stimulus check”) is money that the U.S. government gave to qualifying individuals to help them during the COVID-19 crisis. As of February
2, 2021, the U.S. government has authorized two Economic Impact Payments.

A “qualifying individual” who could receive one or both Economic Impact Payments 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. First Economic Impact Payment
    • Single and earn less than $75,000/year –> you can get up to $1,200.
    • Married and file jointly and earn less than $150,000/year –> you can get up to
      $2,400.
    • Head of household and earn less than $112,500 –> you can get up to $1,200.
    • You can get $500 for every child under 17 years old who you claim as a dependent.
  2. Second Economic Impact Payment
    • Single and earn less than $75,000/year –> you can get up to $600.
    • Married and file jointly and earn less than $150,000/year –> you can get up to $1,200.
    • Head of household and earn less than $112,500 –> you can get up to $600.
    • You can get $600 for every child under 17 years old who you claim as a dependent.

  • The IRS announced that, as of January 15, 2021, it distributed all of the Economic Impact Payments that it will be distributing. If you did not already get your payment, or if you got the wrong amount, you can still try to claim it as a “Recovery Rebate Credit” by filing a 2020 tax return. Please see the Tax Assistance Organizations section below for more information about free tax assistance
  • First Economic Impact Payment
    • You should have automatically received your first Economic Impact Payment if:
      • You filed your 2018 or 2019 tax returns;
      • You were receiving Social Security retirement, survivors or disability insurance (“RSDI”), Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits as of November 2020; or
      • You were getting Veterans Affairs (“VA”) benefits or Railroad Retirement Benefits (“RRB”) before January 1, 2020.
    • You should have also received your Economic Impact Payment if:
      • You registered successfully on the IRS’ Non-Filer Registration Portal before November 21, 2020; or
      • You filed a Simplified Paper Return and mailed it to the IRS before October 30, 2020.
    • You should have automatically received a supplemental Economic Impact Payment for any of your dependent child(ren) if:
      • You filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return, and claimed your dependent(s) on that tax return.
      • You registered any dependent(s) on the Non-Filer Registration portal before September 30, 2020.
  • Second Economic Impact Payment
    • The second Economic Impact Payments were distributed during January 2021, and, in general, they were being distributed automatically to anyone who received the first Economic Impact Payment.
    • According to the IRS, you should receive your second payment in the same form that you received your first one. So if you got your first one by mail, you will receive the second one to the same mailing address. Similarly, if you got your first one as a direct deposit to your bank account, the second one will be deposited there as well.
    • If you did not get your first or second Economic Impact Payment, the dependent amounts for them, you can still try to claim them as a “Recovery Rebate Credit” by filing your 2020 taxes. Please see the Tax Assistance Organizations section below for more information about free tax assistance.

  • In general, the rules for eligibility are the same for both Economic Impact Payments. However, there are some important exceptions, including:
    • Mixed Status Households. If you are in a household where only one spouse has a valid Social Security Number, the rules have changed for eligibility. Now, the spouse with the Social Security number can receive the second Economic Impact Payment (up to $600) and up to $600 per qualifying dependent child. Further, the spouse with the Social Security Number can retroactively claim the first Economic Impact Payment ($1200) and any dependent payments.
      • Please contact a free tax assistance organization for support and filing your 2020 tax return. Please see the Tax Assistance Organizations section for more information about free tax assistance.
    • Child Support Arrears. Individuals who owed more than $150 in child support payments were not eligible for the first Economic Impact Payment. However, these individuals are not barred from receiving the second Economic Impact Payment due to child support arrears. If you did not get the first payment due to child support arrears, you may still be eligible for the second payment.
  • If you do not automatically get the second payment, please contact a free tax assistance organization for support and filing for your 2020 tax return. Please see the Tax Assistance Organizations section below for more information about free tax assistance.

  • Unfortunately, the rules for the Recovery Rebate Credit are slightly different than the rules for Economic Impact Payments. Therefore, it is possible that you could get a lower amount of the Recovery Rebate Credit even if you qualified for the full amount(s) of Economic Impact Payment.
    • The first Economic Impact Payment could only be offset by child support arrears
      for the first one.
    • The second Economic Impact Payment could not be offset by any debts.
    • However, the Recovery Rebate Credit is treated like any other tax credit, and can be offset by a number of debts, including unpaid taxes, student loans, child support and more.
  • This means that if you are an eligible individual who did not receive your full Economic Impact Payment(s), and you have certain outstanding debts, some or all of your payment may be withheld by the IRS to cover your debts.
  • If you have outstanding debts, you should contact a Tax Assistance Organization before filing a 2020 tax return to discuss your specific situation. Please see the Tax Assistance
    Organizations section below for more information about free tax assistance.
  • If you have outstanding tax debts, you can also contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service before filing a 2020 tax return. They may be able to assist you in requesting an “offset bypass refund” if you can prove you are struggling with “financial hardship.” Please visit https://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/about-us/ or call (877) 777-4778 to contact the Taxpayer Advocate.

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

 


 

You can get free high quality tax assistance from a number of organizations. You do not need to pay for tax assistance to file your tax return. Below are a number of organizations offering free high quality tax assistance to low-income individuals. Please note that most of these organizations will require you to make an appointment, and will also ask you for identification, your Social Security card, and any recent tax documents:

 


 

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

Here are some important tips:

  • The IRS will not call or email 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. If you need help, there are free service providers who can help.
  • 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:

 


 

  • You should have received your Economic Impact Payment(s) 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 to the IRS.

  • If you have a safe address, such as a non-profit organization, social services office, or community center, where you can have important mail sent, you can use that address with the organization’s permission. You may also choose to use a friend or family member’s address if that address is safe for you to access mail.
  • You may prefer to set up a bank account if you do not have a safe mailing address.

  • You can enter your information at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment to get a status update.
  • You can call the IRS Economic Impact Payment help line at (800) 919-9835 and ask to speak with an Analyst who can provide “specific case information.” You may have to wait 20-30 minutes to speak with an Analyst, and you will need to verify your identity (including name, Social Security Number, phone number, tax information) with the Analyst.

  • Yes, incarcerated individuals may still qualify for an Economic Impact Payment.
  • If you are or were incarcerated and did not get your Economic Impact Payments, please contact a free tax assistance organization to determine your eligibility and to file a 2020 tax return. Please see the Tax Assistance Organizations section for more information about free tax assistance.
  • If you are denied an Economic Impact Payment or Recovery Rebate Credit, and you think it is because you were or are incarcerated (or if you got a lower amount because your spouse or dependent was incarcerated), please reach out to your Bay Area Legal Aid representative, or call the Legal Advice Hotline at (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 was only allowed to take out from your first Economic Impact Payment if you owed child support greater than $150.
  • The IRS was not allowed to take out any more from your second Economic Impact Payment if you owed child support, or for any other debt.
  • However, if you did not get the full amount of your Economic Impact Payment(s) and need to file a tax return to request a Recovery Rebate Credit, it is important to note that the IRS is permitted to offset the Recovery Rebate Credit for any debts that you owe. Please see the Tax Assistance Organizations section for more information about free tax assistance.
  • Please also see I didn’t get my Economic Impact Payment(s) or dependent amount(s) and need to file a tax return – will my Recovery Rebate Credit be the same
    amount as the Economic Impact Payment and dependent amounts? (above in the Basics section) for more details.
  • 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 should have received an additional amount of Economic Impact Payment for your dependent child(ren) under age 17 if you filed your 2018 or 2019 taxes claiming these dependent(s), received RSDI, SSI, VA or RRB, OR you registered your dependent child(ren) on the IRS Non-Filer registration website before September 30, 2020.
  • If you did not receive an additional amount for you dependent child(ren), you can still try to claim that amount as part of your “Recovery Rebate Credit” by filing a 2020 tax return. Please see the Tax Assistance Organizations section for more information about free tax assistance.

  • The additional payments per dependent are only available for dependents who are under age 17. Therefore, if you have claimed a dependent who is over 17 years old, you unfortunately cannot get the additional payment for him/her/them.

  • Someone who was properly claimed as a dependent by someone else, or could have been properly claimed as a dependent by someone else, is not entitled to their own Economic Impact Payment.
  • To determine whether you should have been claimed by another person as their dependent, you may want to seek out professional tax advice or assistance for support. Please see the Tax Assistance Organizations section for more information about free tax assistance.

  • There are a number of reasons you may not have gotten your first and/or second Economic Impact Payment. Here are a few possibilities:
    • Someone else claimed you as a dependent;
    • You owe child support payments;
    • Someone else received your check and will not give it to you;
    • Your check was sent to an old mailing address or another address that you cannot access;
    • Your check was deposited into a bank account that you no longer have access to; and/or
    • Your payment was deposited to a direct express card that you do not have.
  • Please contact your Bay Area Legal Aid representative directly, or call our Legal Advice Line at 1-800-551-5554.
  • You can also reach out to Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) at https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/1543 or https://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/ or by calling 1-800-906-9887, or to United Way of the Bay Area at https://earnitkeepitsaveit.org/ or by calling 2-1-1.
  • The IRS Taxpayer Advocate may be able to assist you if you did not receive an Economic Impact Payment, or did not receive the correct amount, in the following limited
    situations:

    • Non-Filer who claimed a dependent but did not receive the portion of the Economic Impact Payment for their dependents;
    • Eligible individuals who filed for an “Injured Spouse Allocation” but did not receive an Economic Impact Payment;
    • Individuals whose Economic Impact Payment was based on a 2018 or 2019 tax return but an IRS adjustment negatively impacted the amount of the person’s Economic Impact Payment;
    • Victims of identity theft who did not get their Economic Impact Payment or did not get the right amount;
    • Individuals who did not get their Economic Impact Payment because they filed a joint return with a deceased or incarcerated spouse.
  • If your case does not fit into one of the above categories for Taxpayer Advocate assistance, please note that the IRS has advised that it cannot currently correct or issue a payment. Therefore, you may need to claim additional amounts, or the full amount, of your Economic Impact Payment by filing a 2020 tax return and requesting a “Recovery Rebate Credit.” Make sure to keep the Notice 1444, Your Economic Impact Payment, that you will receive in the mail, so you can use it to claim any additional amounts when you file your tax return. Please see the Tax Assistance Organizations section for more information about free tax assistance.

  • If you did not get your Economic Impact Payment, but your status on the IRS “Get My Payment” page shows your payment was issued, or you received an IRS Notice that your payment was sent, you can request a “Payment Trace” by completing IRS Form 3911(“Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund”).
  • To request a Payment Trace, you can call the IRS (800-919-9835) or submit an IRS Form 3911(“Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund”) and:
    • Write “EIP” on the top of the form;
    • Complete Sections I, II and III;
    • Answer the refund questions as they relate to your Economic Impact Payment;
    • In Section I, Number 7, check the box for “Individual” as “Type of return” and enter “2020” as the tax period, and leave the “Date Filed” blank;
    • Mail or fax the form to the appropriate location listed at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center.
  • You should hear back from the IRS after about 6 weeks.

  • If you did not get your Economic Impact Payment, but your status on the IRS “Get My Payment” page shows your payment was issued, or you received an IRS Notice that your payment was sent, you can request a “Payment Trace” by completing IRS Form 3911(“Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund”).
  • To request a Payment Trace, you can call the IRS (800-919-9835) or submit an IRS Form 3911(“Taxpayer Statement Regarding Refund”) and:
    • Write “EIP” on the top of the form;
    • Complete Sections I, II and III;
    • Answer the refund questions as they relate to your Economic Impact Payment;
    • In Section I:
      • Check the box for “Individual” as “Type of return”;
      • Enter “2020” as the tax period; and
      • Leave the “Date Filed” blank.
    • Mail or fax the form to the appropriate location listed at https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payment-information-center.
  • You should hear back from the IRS after about 6-8 weeks. If you do not hear back from the IRS after 6-8 weeks, you may need to file a 2020 tax return to claim your payment. Please see the Tax Assistance Organizations section for more information about free tax assistance.

  • 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.
  • If your representative payee has withheld or misused your Economic Impact Payment, you may also contact us at www.baylegal/eip or call our Legal Advice Line at 800-551-5554 for additional assistance.
  • 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 and January 20, 2021. 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/ and https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/eip2/.

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.