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Unemployment/Stimulus check

Here’s who can and cannot take your stimulus check away from you



Who can garnish your stimulus check? We’ll tell you.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you are eligible for a stimulus payment, you can spend or save it, but the CARES Act that authorized it does carve out some situations where a direct stimulus payment may actually be garnished — more on that below.

Do note that if you qualified for the first stimulus payment and still haven’t gotten a direct depositcheck or prepaid EIP debit card from the IRS, you may have mistakenly been overlooked or you may have a problem that you need to resolve. Certain groups who are eligible for that first payment, such as some older adults, retireesSSDI recipientsnoncitizens and those who are incarcerated, must take an extra step to file a claim for payment.

Read on for more information how stimulus checks may be seized. We recently updated this story.

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Landlords, nursing homes can’t seize your check

The CARES Act from March prevents a landlord or care facility from demanding you hand over your check to meet a payment. If someone pressures you or threatens you with eviction, make sure you know your rights in regards to stimulus checks and to the eviction moratorium that lasts on all properties through the end of the 2020.

The IRS won’t claim it for back taxes

Stimulus checks are protected from taxation. You won’t be taxed on your stimulus money, and the IRS will not garnish it from you to pay for taxes that you owe. If you want to use the money that way, it is, of course, up to you.

If you owe a car payment, your stimulus money won’t be taken

Likewise, people who are worried about car repossession if they can’t make a payment are in most cases not obligated to hand over any stimulus money, unless it falls into an exception below. Here’s what we know about missed car payments during the coronavirus pandemic.


Is the stimulus money really yours? That depends.

Sarah Tew/CNET

These people can take your stimulus money

Private banks and creditors may be able to seize a payment to cover an outstanding debt. Some states, such as California, have issued orders forbidding banks and creditors from garnishing your stimulus check. If you’re worried about this happening or you want to challenge an action that’s occurred, first check to see if your state has a protection in place that would make a seizure of your check illegal.

Although negotiations on another rescue package are currently at a standstill, the most recent proposals on the table (which includes a second stimulus check) would in most cases prohibit creditors and banks from seizing the payment to settle a debt.

Read morePeople who are incarcerated may now be eligible for stimulus checks. Here’s what’s happening

Overdue child support is another exception

The CARES Act blocked state and federal agencies from taking a stimulus check to cover government debts such as an income tax debt, but it does not exclude seizing a payment to cover past-due child support

If parents are separated or divorced, only the spouse who owes child support will have the payment garnished. According to the IRS, if a spouse does not owe child support, they will receive their portion of the payment and do not need to take any action to receive it.


If you owe child support, all or part of your stimulus check could be used to cover the expense.

Sarah Tew/CNET

In some cases, a mistake has led to the government garnishing all or part of the stimulus check meant for the current spouse of the parent paying child support (who isn’t the child’s other parent). Here’s how to claim that money by Nov. 21.

Read moreYou don’t have to be a US citizen living in America to get a stimulus check

Can the IRS make you return your stimulus money?

The IRS said a payment you get this year won’t reduce your tax refund in 2021 or increase the amount you owe when you file your 2020 tax return. You also won’t have to repay a stimulus payment if you qualify for a lower amount in 2021. (Here how your income taxes influence your payment.)

For more information, here’s what we know about the state of negotiations on a second rescue bill and what a stimulus package from President-elect Joe Biden would look like.

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