Domestic abuse victims are reporting that their abusers have been withholding their stimulus check money, and lawmakers want the IRS to intervene. According to MarketWatch, advocates and senators have been putting pressure on the Internal Revenue Service to send abuse survivors a replacement check to make up for the one their abusers have intercepted.
"A stimulus payment can make a huge difference in financially easing the burdens many survivors and their children are facing with remaining safe and secure economically," said FreeForm founder and CEO Sonya Passi. FreeFrom is an organization that focuses on increasing financial security for domestic violence survivors. Passi says that many of these individuals are desperate for the stimulus money to help them take care of themselves and their children. "The pandemic has caused many survivors to fall further into debt and placed even more limitations on their ability to financially seek safety from abuse and harm," she told MarketWatch.
We talked to @meerajag and @marketwatch about the rise in economic abuse during COVID, survivors' inability to access their stimulus checks and the need for community financial support for survivors. https://t.co/0epHwF51uG— Free From (@freefromorg) July 23, 2020
While it is difficult to get an exact number of people who have been affected by this specific situation, Passi, says her organization has been contacted by at least 40 survivors who say their checks were kept from them by their abusers. She shared from one unnamed individual who wrote, "My abusive soon-to-be-ex-husband is withholding my half of the stimulus check as another way to control me." The survivor added, "Due to this I am struggling to pay for fees that would allow me to move into a new place."
Passi shared from another survivor who said, "My ex-husband claimed me as a dependent on his taxes even though I made $11,000 of my own money in 2019, and provided child care for our toddler." The second survivor went on to say, "Now we are separated, and not only did I not receive any of the tax return, but I wasn’t eligible for the stimulus check either." Passi notes that in these two situations the victims knew about the stimulus payments, but that in many other abuse situations the victims may not be aware of the relief money. "Harm-doers typically have access to survivors’ identifying information and bank accounts and use them to abuse, monitor and control survivors,” Passi explained, "so if a stimulus check is deposited, the survivor may never actually see it." She later concluded, "Survivors should not have to figure this out on their own. There’s more for all of us to do."