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Coronavirus “Stimulus Payments” (Economic Impact Payments) : Common Questions

 

Last Updated On: 1/20/2021 8:57:51 PM

Introduction

In the Spring of 2020, Congress passed the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security) Act to help with the COVID-19 Emergency.  One major part of that bill provided direct stimulus payments to Americans.  Under this first round of stimulus payments individuals received $1,200, while couples could get up to $2,400.  Children under 17 could get $500 each. These payments were paid through the IRS. The IRS calls these Economic Impact Payments. 

In December 2020, Congress passed another bill to provide more help to people struggling financially because of COVID-19.  This new law has a second round of stimulus payments to be paid through the IRS again starting in January 2021. The amount of the payments is less than it was in Spring 2020.  Under the December 2020 law, an adult who makes up to $75,000 a year will get a $600 stimulus payment , or for a couple earning up to $150,000 a year, they will receive $1,200. Children under 17 could get $600 each this time. 

Many people have already gotten their first round of stimulus payments.  But some people have yet to receive their payments in 2021.  And people have a lot of questions about these payments.  We’ll try to answer them.  We’ll update this information as we learn about changes or clarifications.

Information about these payments changes quickly. For the most up-to-date information, go to the IRS Economic Impact Payment Information Center

WHO GETS THE STIMULUS PAYMENT?

I received one of the first round of stimulus payments in 2020. Am I eligible for the second round of stimulus payments in 2021?

Yes, if you received a stimulus payment in 2020, you are more than likely still eligible to receive one now. There are several requirements to qualify for payments:

  • Be either a US citizen or a legal resident of the US; and
  • Have a social security number *, and
  • Meet the income limits (next question), and
  • Are not claimed as the “dependent” of another taxpayer.

*Under the Dec. 2020 bill, “mixed-status” households, in which some family members don’t have a social security number, but some do, are eligible for the second round of stimulus payments.   

What are the income limits and how much are the payments for the second round of stimulus?

The income limits for the second round of stimulus payments are similar to the first round. But the amount of the second round of payments in 2021 are less than the first round of stimulus payments from 2020, except for child payments.   

For Individuals: 

  • $600 to each qualified individual who earns less than $75,000 per year; 
  • Decreasing size payment to each individual earning between $75,000 and $87,000 per year;
  • No payment to individuals earning more than $87,000 per year.
For Couples:
  • $1,200 to qualified couples who earn less than $150,000 per year;
  • Decreasing size payments to couples earning between $150,000 to $174,000 per year; 
  • No payment to couples earning more than $174,000 per year. 
For Children:
  • $600 per child under age 17
  • Who Qualifies As A “Child”?

    Payments will not be made for children age 17 or 18, even if they are living in your home.

    Children who are in college could receive a payment if you did not claim them as dependents on your tax return.  If you DID claim them as dependents, then they are not eligible for a payment. 

    I Have A Child In College.  Can She Get A Stimulus Payment?

    Possibly, but only if you do not provide more than half her support and do not claim her as a Dependent on your tax return.  Generally, a full-time college student under the age of 24 is considered a dependent if her parent(s) provide more than half of her support.  If you are not providing more than half of her support, and not claiming her as a dependent on your taxes, she could qualify for a Stimulus Payment as an individual. 

    HOW PAYMENTS ARE MADE AND WHEN WILL THEY COME?

    How will I get my payment?

    All payments are sent by the IRS.

    If the IRS has your bank account information on file, your second stimulus payment will be directly deposited in your account. The IRS will use direct deposit information you provided in your 2019 tax return. Or it will use information you provided if you used the IRS Non-Filer Portal in 2020 for people who don’t normally file taxes, but wanted to get the first stimulus payment deposited to them. 

    The IRS automatically sent payments to individuals who don’t file taxes, but receive Social Security Retirement, Social Security Disability, SSI, Railroad Retirement benefits or income from the Veteran’s Administration. 

     If the IRS doesn’t have bank account information for your household, they will be sending paper checks or debit cards called Economic Impact Payment Cards (EIP Cards). If you receive a letter from the IRS or the U.S. Treasury, DO NOT THROW IT AWAY!

    Here is some important information from the National Consumer Law Center about the EIP Cards so that you know what to look for in the mail and how you can avoid fees being charged when you use the card: The EIP Stimulus Payment Prepaid Card (nclc.org)

    When will I get the second stimulus payment?

    The IRS started sending out the second round of stimulus payments in early January 2021. Technically, the IRS is required by law to ensure that all stimulus payments are sent out by January 15, 2021. If you have not received your stimulus check by then, you may still receive one in the mail in the form of a paper check or via a government issued debit card, called an Economic Impact Payment Card (EIP Card).  

    If you haven’t gotten a payment yet, contact the IRS.   You can check on the status of your Economic Impact Payment on this website by clicking "Get My Payment." This is an IRS website (https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment) where you can enter your Social Security Number, date of birth, street address, and ZIP Code to see the status of your payment. The ‘Get My Payment’ page is ONLY available through the IRS.gov website and not available through any other webpage. Be careful that you are only using the IRS.gov webpage when providing this information. 

    I did my 2019 taxes through TurboTax or H&R Block and still haven’t received my second stimulus payment, what can I do?

    Issues surrounding these services have recently come to light. When you filed your taxes using either one of these software options, you may have selected that the cost of using their services be taken out of your refund. In that case, a temporary bank account was set up by TurboTax and H&R Block where your refund was directed before being sent to you. These temporary bank accounts were closed prior to the second round of stimulus payments being sent out. These software companies are aware of the issue and have begun the process of fixing it.

    If you filed your taxes through Jackson Hewitt, Republic Bank or TaxAct, you will start to receive your stimulus check after February 1, 2021.  

    Where can I check to see the status of my stimulus payment?

    The IRS has created a dedicated page called "Get My Paymentwhere through the IRS.gov website (https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment) , you can enter your Social Security Number, date of birth, street address, and ZIP Code to see the status of your payment. The "Get My Payment" page is ONLY available through the IRS.gov website and not available through any other webpage. Be careful to ensure that you are only using the IRS.gov webpage when providing this information.  

    What if I check the status of my stimulus check and I receive a message that says it is ‘Unavailable’?  

    This message indicates that there is an issue with the information that the IRS has on file for you. In this situation, do not attempt to call the IRS as they are not taking calls from taxpayers who have this issue. Instead, you will have to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your taxes for 2020 when you file this year in order to receive this payment.  The Recovery Rebate Credit is found on Form 1040 or 1040-SR.  

    What if I didn’t get the first stimulus payment in 2020 and I haven't gotten the second stimulus payment in 2021? Can I still get these payments?

    Yes, if you have not received this stimulus payment or the previous one, you can still claim it. You will have to file taxes for 2020 this year, in 2021. When you go to file your taxes for 2020, you can claim the Recovery Rebate Credit. This is a credit in the amount of the stimulus payment that you have not received.  The Recovery Rebate Credit is found on Form 1040 or 1040-SR.    

    I get income from the SSA, VA or Railroad Retirement. I got my first and second stimulus payments, but it didn't include a payment for children in my household. Why? Can I go anything to get the child payment? 

    This probably happened because you did not file a tax return for 2019 last year. The IRS used information the government has about your household to automatically send you a payment. But if you didn't file a tax return, they may not have known about any children in your household. So, they did not automatically include the child payment. 

    To recieve the child payment if you have not, you will need to file a 2020 tax return this year, in 2021. You will need to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your taxes, which is found on Form 1040 or 1040-SR.  This is a credit in the amount of the stimulus payment that you have not received. 

    If I had a child in 2020, how can I let the IRS know so that I get the child payment for my stimulus payments? 

    The IRS based the amount of their payments on your 2019 taxes. So it's likely that the IRS may not know that you have a new child in your household. To get the child stimulus payment if you have not, you will need to file 2020 taxes in 2021. You will need to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your taxes, which is found on Form 1040 or 1040-SR.  This is a credit in the amount of the stimulus payment that you have not received.  

    What if I have guardianship over children or am a foster parent; am I still entitled to the $600?

    If you have guardianship over children or are a foster parent and have claimed them on your taxes as dependents previously, you should be entitled to the additional $600 per child. If you have not already received this money from the IRS, you will need to file taxes for 2020 this year, in 2021. You will need to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your taxes, which is found on Form 1040 or 1040-SR. 

    IMPACT OF STIMULUS PAYMENTS

    Will Stimulus Payments Be Counted Later Against My Food Stamps or Medicaid or HUD Assistance?

    These payments will not count as “income” or as “assets” during the next twelve months for any of the federal means tested programs.  That includes: 

    • Medicaid
    • SNAP (food stamps)
    • TANF/WV WORKS (monthly cash welfare assistance)
    • Subsidized housing assistance (like Section 8 or Public Housing)
    • SSI
    • Affordable Care Act premium assistance.

    The Stimulus Payment will not affect or reduce your SSI, food stamps, Medicaid, or any other federal benefit program based on income for twelve months after you receive the payment.  If you have not spent the money after a year, it may be considered against your "asset" limit. 

    Will The Stimulus Payment Be Counted As Taxable Income?

    No.

    Will My Second Stimulus Check Be “Intercepted” To Pay Back Taxes, Student Loans, Or Another Debt To A Federal Or State Agency?

    No.  Unlike the first round of stimulus payments, this second payment will not be intercepted to pay back taxes, student loans or child support. Your Stimulus Payment will come to you with no “offset” or interruption due to these types of debts.   

    If you are owed back child support, this means that you will not see additional money from the other parent's secound stimulus payment.  

    Can the money from my second stimulus payment be taken out of my bank account by a creditor?

    No. Once the payment hits your bank account, the money will NOT be subject to “attachment” by creditors.  This is different from the first stimulus payment, when the law did not protect these funds from the court debt collection process. If you owe overdraft fees to your bank, however, they may use your second stimulus payment to cover those amounts.  If you believe your bank has done this, you should contact them and seek a temporary overdraft waiver. 

    Will scammers and fraudsters try to cheat me out of my Stimulus Payment?

    Yes. Liars, cheaters, users and manipulators show up anytime money is being handed out. You’ve got to protect yourself. Be careful and be skeptical.

    Suppose you get information over the internet, phone, email, text message, Twitter, Snapchat or whatever, claiming to be from a government agency or official, and offering you a “deal.” Find that agency’s website (without using any link included in the message you received). Check whether that government agency really is offering you a “deal.” Most of the time, they aren’t. It’s just someone trying to lie to you and scam you out of your money.

    Legal Aid has a separate set of FAQs about “Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Scams.” 

    What if I received a stimulus payment for someone who died?

    If your partner or dependent passed after you filed your taxes together, and you received their stimulus check, the IRS has indicated that you are responsible for paying that money back. Therefore, you could potentially have to pay that portion of what your partner or dependent back to the IRS. At this point, the IRS has not indicated whether it will aggressively attempt to recoup these payments or will attempt to garnish future tax returns.

    If a nursing home or assisted living residence manages the individual’s money, is it permitted to use the Economic Impact Payment to settle a past due account or for other expenses?

    No.  The Economic Impact Payment belongs to the individual resident.  A nursing home or assisted living residence should only use/expend the Economic Impact Payment as directed by the resident.  If the resident is not capable of directing his/her own funds, the resident’s financial representative (financial power of attorney representative or conservator) may direct the use of the Economic Impact Payment in consultation with the resident and in consideration of his/her wishes.  

    What about individuals for whom Social Security has appointed a representative payee?

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

    What if an individual believes someone is misusing the Economic Impact Payment belonging to a long-term care resident?

    The intentional misappropriation or misuse of any funds or assets, including the Economic Impact Payments, belonging to a vulnerable adult or facility resident is financial exploitation.  Financial exploitation should be reported to Adult Protective Services by making a referral to Centralized Intake at 1-800-352-6513.  

    This is general legal information. For guidance about your situation, talk to a lawyer.