A bipartisan group of more than 100 House representatives sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig on Wednesday urging the IRS to promptly issue stimulus payments to survivors of domestic violence because caseworkers have said the money has been taken or intercepted by abusive partners.
“Congress passed the bipartisan CARES Act to swiftly deliver money into the hands of our most vulnerable constituents, and we cannot leave out survivors of domestic violence,” they wrote, referencing the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package from late March.
The representatives, led by Reps. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), said conversations with caseworkers and advocates led them to be “deeply concerned” survivors are unable to access the stimulus payments.
Caseworkers said they have tried to help constituents whose payments went to abusive spouses or were taken by abusive partners and said, in cases with married couples, the IRS directs constituents to resolve stimulus payment disputes as part of a divorce settlement.
“This suggestion is simply untenable and ignores the hardship that these individuals face each day,” the lawmakers wrote, adding, “Further, it forgets those victims who are not married to their abusers but reside at the same address.”
The lawmakers urged the IRS to create a process for domestic violence survivors to notify the IRS that they have not received their payments due to theft or similar interception by their abusers and said the IRS could use that information to issue payments directly to survivors.
“Nearly all victims of domestic violence experience economic abuse, and many survivors stay with their abusers due to insufficient financial means to support themselves and their children. A $1,200 check could empower survivors to leave their abusive partners and provide them the support they need for a fresh start,” the lawmakers wrote.
In a report issued earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office said the IRS is considering options to help survivors of domestic abuse, “including outreach to advocacy groups for victims of domestic abuse who can advise survivors of legal and other options they can pursue in such situations.”
Since the beginning of this pandemic, almost every state has reported a surge in domestic violence, the lawmakers said citing an August report from the liberal public policy research and advocacy organization Center for American Progress.
Federal Efforts Could Be Strengthened by Timely and Concerted Actions (Government Accountability Office)
Ensuring Domestic Violence Survivors’ Safety (Center for American Progress)