News that the government would send $1,200 stimulus checks this spring if many Americans had been overjoyed.
But for some people, that’s followed by an unexpectedly long wait for the money.
Grant Conic, 56, of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, is one of those people. Conic said she was perplexed when the $2,400 she expected for both her and her husband did not come.
Both Conic, a US military veteran, and her husband receive federal benefits, so she figured they’d already be in the system.
After checking with the IRS, she found that a check had been issued on May 5, although she never received it.
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“They told me they had no way of issuing another check,” Conic said. “And they wouldn’t let me give my information again when I went to their website.”
Nevertheless, she tried to enter their bank details online and inquired at the desk where the check was every two weeks. Then, earlier this month, Conic decided to contact her congressman’s office.
Conic finally received the money on August 25. The money will help the couple pay for their grandchildren’s school supplies and other bills.
But it would have been helpful if she’d had it this spring, she said, when her grandchildren, who lived with her, had to be home-schooled first.
“If you have a steady income and you’ve added extras, it’s quite stressful financially,” Conic said.
The stimulus controls were approved by Congress in March through the CARES Act. They called for payments of up to $1,200 per person or $2,400 per married couple applying together, as well as $500 per eligible dependent under age 17.
The Treasury Department and the IRS began rushing one-off payments in April. Within two months, they sent about 159 million payments.
That was record progress, according to Janet Holtzblatt, senior fellow at the Urban Brookings Tax Policy Center.
But the delivery of the money after that was reportedly slow. About 1.5 million payments were sent the following month, although the government had estimated that a total of 171 million checks would be sent.
That led Democratic leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee to call the progress “unacceptable.”
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration continues to work on resolving the payment problems in response to questions from lawmakers at a Congressional hearing in July.
“I have sympathy because these are real people who want their checks,” Mnuchin said.
Those eligible for checks that don’t receive them this year will still be eligible for the money in the spring when they file their 2020 tax returns.
But for people who need the money now, that’s little consolation.
‘I don’t know why I’m being overlooked’
Niko_Cingaryuk | iStock | Getty Images
“It’s something I thought would come to me, and I don’t know why I’m being overlooked,” said Thomas Wansaw, 59, of Wilmington, Delaware.
Wansaw, who lives on a steady income, said he should qualify for the money based on his 2018 tax return. But every time he tries to use the IRS’s Get My Payment tool, he gets the same response indicating that his information doesn’t match their records.
“That $1,200 would make all the difference in the world,” Wansaw said. “All I wanted to do with it was pay bills and let it catch up.”
The IRS is making an effort to reach those who were excluded from the initial payment implementations.
That includes deadlines for non-filers to submit their information by October 15 to get their money this year. People who receive federal benefits but have not received $500 payments for their eligible children have until September 30 to submit information for those payments through the same no-filer tool. Other families who also missed those $500 dependent payments should receive them soon, if they haven’t already.
About 50,000 people whose payments have been withheld because of their spouse’s unpaid child support will also receive catch-up payments in the coming months, according to the IRS.
The agency also plans to send more checks to eligible Americans who haven’t received them, while continuing to process 2019 tax returns, according to its website. While information about those payments won’t appear online in the agency’s Get My Payment tool, the IRS will send a letter confirming that the money has been sent.
Those most at risk of not receiving their payments are the non-filers, according to Holtzblatt.
“The challenge for this group is that many of them, who are low-income, don’t have access to the Internet,” Holtzblatt said. “They may not even know they qualify for this payment.”
The responsibility rests with community organizations to help these people meet the Oct. 15 deadline and to connect with those people who may not even know they qualify for the money, she said.
No check yet? Take these steps
For those who haven’t received a check by now and think they should have, consider taking several actions.
Check the IRS rules first to make sure you are in fact eligible for a check based on your income and the status of your file, among other things. If you are older than 17 and you have been claimed by someone else, for example, then you are not eligible for a cheque.
Check the IRS Get My Payment tool to see if your status has been updated, or call the agency’s established phone number for inquiries: 800-919-9835.
Also consider contacting your bank to see if it has received a deposit.
Finally, if you know a payment was made but never got to you, consider putting a trail on it.
Conic also recommends contacting your local congressional representative, who she credits for helping her finally get her money last week.
“They need to make sure their congressmen work for them,” she said. “They have elected their congressmen.”