Millions of individuals and families could miss out on stimulus payments because they don’t know how to get them. Economic Impact Payments (EIP) –commonly referred to as “stimulus checks” or “recovery rebates”– are a key provision of the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act legislation that Congress passed to help reduce the financial burden of COVID-19 on individuals and their families. The payments are to help reduce the financial burden of COVID-19. Payments are worth up to $1,200, plus up to $500 for certain children. To get the payment, individuals will need to file a tax return or complete an online IRS form by October 15, 2020 to get the payment this year.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) estimated that approximately 12 million Americans are eligible for the stimulus payments and may miss the opportunity to receive funds if they do not provide their information through a 2019 tax return or the IRS “non-filer” tool. People who have missed out may include homeless youth and youth transitioning out of foster care. Key steps we can do to help youth, parents, and families access their stimulus checks starts with connecting them to local resources. You can direct people to different resources depending on their access and familiarity with technology. For those who are comfortable with technology, MyFreeTaxes.com and IRS Free File are options to file a tax return for free online. Those not required to file can go to www.irs.gov/eip and click the button for non-filers.
For those who need support, find out where you can direct people for local help. Some organizations and agencies may already be conducting Economic Impact Payment outreach activities. Start by contacting your local United Way and Community Action Agency.
There are 3 places to check first for free tax help:
1. VITA – Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites offer free, high quality tax preparation from IRS-certified volunteers. VITA sites help filers earning less than about $56,000 (some sites have different income guidelines). Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many VITA sites are currently closed. Some sites are offering virtual services. Look up VITA sites in your area and call to ask about the help they provide.
2. Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) – LITCs are programs at law schools, accounting schools, or legal services offices that provide assistance and legal representation to lower-income taxpayers who are in disputes with the IRS. Some LITCs are nonprofit organizations which provide community tax education programs to reach residents whose primary language is one other than English. Generally, LITCs do not offer free tax help. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some LITCs are helping people to file 2019 tax returns. Identify the LITCs that serve your area using this map.
3. H&R Block – The H&R Block website allows people to submit their information for Economic Impact Payments for free. The chain has a national policy that offices are to extend this practice to in-person help to get the payments, however there isn’t a process to enforce this. If remote VITA services aren’t available in your area, find out what the local H&R Block offices in your area are doing. If needed, consider contacting other paid tax preparers about their policies for in-person help.
For more information, go to eitcoutreach.org/stimulus; click here for the one-pager. To join a growing group of organizations committed to helping eligible people get their EIPs, click here to Become a partner in the national EIP Outreach Campaign.