Many Americans are still waiting on a "stimulus check" from the IRS to help recover from the coronavirus pandemic, but the process is slow. The payments of up to $1,200 have gone out to many via direct deposit, while the first round of paper checks was just mailed this week. Some are stuck in limbo, not sure how their money is even coming.
The "stimulus check" — officially known as the Economic Impact Payment — is a form of direct relief for American taxpayers approved by congress in the CARES Act. It guarantees permanent residents of the U.S. a one-time payment of up to $1,200, depending on their income, with no strings attached. They payments were rushed out to Americans in need, and as a result, there have been a few hiccups in their delivery. Now, man people are online every day hoping for updates.
The best way to get updates on your personal Economic Impact Payment is on the IRS' website. There, the service has added a new tool called Get My Payment, designed to help Americans find out the status of their check and provide new details like updated banking information and mailing addresses.
However, the IRS has said that the Get My Payment app and other functions of its website are only updated once per day at most. The service is not equipped for up-to-the-minute updates for each user, as many banking sites provide. According to a report by ProPublica, the IRS has been "gutted" by congress in recent years, and these payments are a Herculean task for the agency.
Still, the long wait and uncertainty has many Americans desperate. While personal updates may be scarce, updates on the payments themselves are available. Here is the latest news on Economic Impact Payments in general.
On Friday, the first batch of Economic Impact Payments went out by mail, according to a report by CNET. The IRS reportedly intends to send out about 5 million paper checks per week until all Americans have gotten one. The checks are being sent out to those with the lowest adjusted gross income first, so the 5 million mailed out on Friday went to Americans who made the least money according to their 2018 or 2019 taxes.
Meanwhile, Americans frustrated with the Get My Payment tool online may soon be relieved as the app is getting new updates, according to a report by USA Today. The IRS has scheduled "planned outages" for the service throughout Friday and Saturday, with the intention of bolstering the app's capabilities and making "critical system updates." Hopefully, it will be enough to give desperate Americans a better idea of when their money is coming.
The IRS issued a special alert on Friday about upcoming deadlines for Economic Impact Payments. Most Americans do not need to take action to receive their check, but those who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Veterans Affairs benefits (VA) might need to fill out a form or two.
This alert was very specific for SSI and VA beneficiaries who do not file tax returns, and who have at least one child claimed as a dependant. These people only have until May 5 to fill out the proper "non-filer" forms to get the $500 payment for their dependent.
"We want to 'Plus $500' these groups so they can get their maximum Economic Impact Payment of $1,200 and their $500 for each eligible child as quickly as possible," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "They'll get $1,200 automatically, but they need to act quickly and use the Non-Filers tool on IRS.gov to get the extra $500 per child added to their payment. Everyone should share this information widely and help others with the Plus $500 Push, so that more Americans get more money as fast as possible."
If you or someone you know falls into this category, check out the special non-filer tool here.
In another press release on Friday, the IRS reported on the results of the first three weeks of Economic Impact Payments. So far, the agency has sent out 88 million checks in total, collectively worth almost $158 billion — all right into Americans' pockets.
The figures are a reminder of the IRS' monumental work to get these payments out quickly. While many Americans are frustrated by the Get My Payment app, experts say it still works better than it could have been expected to. Senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center Janet Holtzblatt told CNBC that Americans should not be surprised by "glitches."
"The IRS got this up and running in record time," she said. "They didn’t have much time to develop and test all of these tools before they were up and running."
Tax Preparation Services
This week, many Americans learned the source of their own Economic Impact Payment delay: their tax preparation service. Many reports around the country found that those who used online services like TurboTax, retail help like H&R Block or even private accountants and financial advisers were not getting their Economic Impact Payments.
The reason is a third-party banking system tax preparation services use to charge fees. When an accountant sends a tax filing to the IRS, they often direct the tax return to a third party banking service, which draws their fee and the price of their software out of the return before forwarding the rest to the taxpayer themselves. Since the IRS used the banking information already on file, it sent many Americans' Economic Impact Payments to these third-party banks.
The accounts are not meant to hold money long-term, and in many cases, they reportedly bounced the Economic Impact Payment back to the IRS. With no other direct deposit information on hand the taxpayer, the IRS would then send this payment by mail instead, meaning the taxpayer might have to wait weeks to receive it.
According to a report by ProPublica, this glitch in the system has disproportionately effected low-income Americans.
On Friday, the IRS released data on Economic Impact Statements on a state-by-state level, revealing some surprising insight into the economic standing of each region. Analysts at CNBC constructed a map showing the average payment of each household in any given state. It found that some of the biggest payouts were going to households in central states like Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma.
This is likely related to the way households are defined by the IRS. Those that file taxes individually were eligible for up to $1,200 in their Economic Impact Payment, depending on their income. Couples who filed jointly were eligible for up to $2,400, and in either case, taxpayers with a dependent aged 16 years or younger were eligible for an additional $500 per child.
Filers who were identified as "head of household" on their taxes were a little different. The threshold for their income was over $30,000 higher, though their payments were the same. These differences played out in the average payment amounts, with no state averaging more than $1,998 per household.
The Emergency Money for the People Act
Finally, with millions of payments now distributed and the coronavirus pandemic expected to carry on for months to come, many are already wondering if another "stimulus check" might be a possibility. Congress is already working on that, with Ohio's Rep. Tim Ryan and California's Rep. Ro Khanna introducing the Emergency Money for the People Act.
As it is now, the bill would guarantee American taxpayers up to $2,000 per month for at least six months, or until unemployment rates return to the levels of before the pandemic. Many of the income thresholds, restrictions and other rules would be the same as they were in the CARES Act, though some would be streamlined to allow for easier distribution.
The bill has a long way to go before it has any hope of becoming law, and chances are that in that time other congressional reps would want to revise it and make compromises with their own agendas. There are also other coronavirus-related bills in the works that could include different provisions for Economic Impact Payments in the future. Either way, it is clear that many lawmakers see future pandemic relief payments as a necessity for the American people.
For updates on your Economic Impact Payment, visit the IRS' website. For the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic itself, visit the websites of the CDC and the World Health Organization. And keep it locked to PopCulture.com for the latest news on how it affects you.