As Republicans fight past the expiration of federal unemployment benefits, there are few details on reaching those who were missed in last round
According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the next coronavirus relief bill will include another round of stimulus checks in an effort to help Americans weather the economic fallout of the pandemic. The draft was expected Thursday, but has been pushed to next week.
“We’re talking about the same provision as last time, so our proposal is the exact same proposal as last time,” Mnuchin told reporters. The CARES Act passed in March provided a one-time $1,200 payment to individuals who made up to $75,000 a year, with an additional $500 per child.
But, as CNN points out, an estimated 12 million low-income Americans never received their initial economic stimulus checks.
Because of the March bill, more than 160 million Americans received payments automatically. But people earning less than $12,200 annually don’t have to file tax returns, and the Internal Revenue Service did not have ready access to their updated information. Those who did not file a special online form got nothing.
“I think what we’re seeing right now is a huge disconnect between federal, state and local governments. But I think Congress should be more aggressive in directing efforts to find these people,” Elaine Maag, a research associate in the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, told CNN.
A recent study from the Urban Institute also found that the communities hit hardest by the coronavirus—that is, families living in poverty and people of color—were less likely than rich, white people to receive their payments on schedule.
Lawmakers do, however, have an opportunity to close the gap and ensure the neediest Americans get the help promised. One proposal is to utilize Medicaid or SNAP food stamp benefit records. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank found evidence that about 75% of those at risk of missing the first round of payments could be reached by utilizing those programs, which could alert individuals that they are eligible for payments.
The challenge, since the IRS still requires the online form, is access. The digital divide already left millions of very low-income Americans without home Internet, and due to the coronavirus pandemic, libraries and many businesses with free wi-fi are closed.