At least 187,000 Massachusetts residents may be eligible for unclaimed COVID-19 stimulus checks, but the clock is ticking.
The Internal Revenue Service recently announced that it will send letters to 9 million Americans who typically do not file federal income tax returns but may qualify for the Economic Impact Payments authorized in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The IRS says letter recipients did not file returns in 2018 or 2019 as they usually are not required to do so because they earn low incomes. But they are likely still eligible to receive stimulus checks of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples; families can receive an additional $500 for each qualifying child under the age of 17.
More than 7 million Americans have already used the Non-Filers tool to register for a payment, the IRS said last week. The tool is meant for individuals whose incomes are below $12,200 or married couples earning less than $24,400, including people who are experiencing homelessness.
As of July, more than 3.2 million stimulus payments have already been issued in Massachusetts, totaling nearly $5.2 billion, Forbes reported.
A September Government Accountability Office report noted that the IRS and U.S. Department of Treasury lacked “updated information on how many eligible recipients have yet to receive” stimulus checks. “The lack of such information could hinder outreach efforts and place potentially millions of individuals at risk of missing their payment,” reported GAO.
The nonpartisan congressional watchdog called on Treasury and the IRS to renew estimates of eligible recipients and to make more information “available to outreach partners to raise awareness about how and when to file” for stimulus checks.
“The IRS continues to work hard to reach people eligible for these payments,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement. “These mailings are the latest step by the IRS to reach as many people as possible for these important payments. We are releasing this state-by-state information so that state and local leaders and organizations can better understand the size of this population in their communities and assist them in claiming these important payments. Time is running out to claim a payment before the deadline.”
The IRS sent letters to nearly 90,000 people in Connecticut; 25,000 in Rhode Island; 30,000 in New Hampshire; 32,000 in Maine; and more than 13,000 in Vermont. In California, nearly 1.2 million people still may be eligible for unclaimed stimulus checks.
With the deadline fast approaching, the IRS says if you are eligible to use the non-filer tool, do so now and don’t wait for the letter to arrive.
The IRS notes that receiving a letter doesn’t guarantee that you’re eligible; residents are likely eligible if they are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, have a work-eligible Social Security number and can’t be claimed as a dependent. For more on eligibility, read here.
You can qualify for a stimulus check even if you’re out of work or earned no income in 2018 or 2019. Low- and moderate-income workers eligible for tax benefits like the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit must file a regular tax return, the IRS says. If you miss the Oct. 15 deadline, you can still receive a stimulus check by filing a 2020 return next year.
Lawmakers and President Donald Trump had long pushed for a second round of stimulus checks in a package following up on the CARES Act.
Democrats in May approved a $3 trillion bill with stimulus checks and more than $800 billion to state and local governments, a proposal that the Republican-led Senate refused to bring to the floor for a vote. Republicans in July proposed a $1 trillion package that also included stimulus checks but went nowhere, with zero support from Democrats and at least 20 Republicans saying it was too costly.
Stimulus talks on Capitol Hill have collapsed multiple times, with few expecting a deal to be reached before Election Day.