Several anxious, angry seniors and others expressed frustration during the past week about why they had not yet received the latest, third round of stimulus cash.
“I thought it would be here by now,” one older woman lamented on a Detroit Free Press voicemail.
“Do you have any idea when people on SSI will get their stimulus money? Desperate to hear something,” another woman emailed me.
Another reader who receives government benefits via a Direct Express card complained that while stimulus money was expected on March 17, nothing showed up. “All I hear is that the IRS screwed up and it will be taken care of. It’s hard enough to live in $800 a month.”
Not receiving something by now doesn’t mean you’re completely out of luck.
More money will be issued in the coming weeks as direct deposits and through the mail as paper checks or debit cards.
It might not matter all that much to wait a few weeks, if you’ve been steadily employed. But such delays clearly hurt people who have difficulty making ends meet already.
The third set of Economic Impact Payments — which offer up to $1,400 each for those who qualify — began hitting many bank accounts via direct deposit on March 17. Others have begun receiving paper checks or plastic prepaid Visa cards, issued by MetaBank.
So far, about 127 million people were on track to receive a total of $325 billion in the first two weeks since President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law March 11, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
That includes the latest 37 million payments in the second batch of Economic Impact Payments issued this week.
Millions remain waiting for money
But nearly 30 million Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries are waiting to get money through their Economic Impact Payments, according to a letter sent by leaders on the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.
“Because SSA has inexplicably not sent the necessary payment files to the Internal Revenue Service, tens of millions of beneficiaries have yet to receive their desperately needed EIPs,” according to Chairman Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, and oversight subcommittee chairman Bill Pascrell Jr., a New Jersey Democrat, and others.
Wednesday’s letter followed another scathing commentary Monday when Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee criticized both the commissioners of the IRS and the Social Security Administration about the handling of the latest stimulus rollout.
“Some of our most vulnerable seniors and persons with disabilities, including veterans who served our country with honor, are unable to pay for basic necessities while they wait for their overdue payments,” according to the letter signed by Neal, Pascrell Jr. and others.
The letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig and Social Security Commissioner Andrew Saul expressed alarm that most Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Railroad Retirement Board and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries who are not required to file a tax return had not yet received their payments.
And the letter expressed concern that “the IRS is unable to provide an expected timeline for these payments.”
Saul’s office issued a press statement Wednesday that the Social Security Administration has worked with the IRS during the past year to assist with the three stimulus programs. But the statement also noted that the agency faced various hurdles, budget restrictions and did not receive any direct appropriation to support its work on the Economic Impact Payments as part of the American Rescue Plan.
“In fact, it was the substantial efforts of SSA that successfully overcame the fact that the IRS did not have a mechanism to automatically identify Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients, some of the most financially insecure people in America,” Saul said in a statement.
He noted that the Social Security Administration sent initial test files to the IRS on March 22 and the IRS confirmed “testing success” March 24.
“Production files were delivered to IRS before 9 a.m. on Thursday, March 25 — more than a week sooner than we were able to provide a similar file to IRS during the first round of EIPs,” Saul said in the statement.
He noted that the Social Security Administration has been updating the files that the IRS will use to issue payments to Social Security beneficiaries.
“Those updates to our files ensure that payments go to correct bank accounts and addresses, and, that those who are deceased are removed from the files,” Saul said.
“In short, Social Security employees have literally worked day and night with IRS staff to ensure that the electronic files of Social Security and SSI recipients are complete, accurate, and ready to be used to issue payments.”
A year ago during the first stimulus effort, many people who received government benefits faced similar delays. Many lower-income families desperately wanted to know back in early May 2020 the whereabouts of their first Economic Impact Payments.
What makes the waiting game worse now is that the latest stimulus package is far more generous than the last two, and really could provide serious relief.
The IRS has not given any expected timeline for when people who are beneficiaries of these government programs will receive their stimulus money.
“Many federal beneficiaries who filed 2019 or 2020 returns or used the Non-Filers tool were included in these first two batches of payments, if eligible,” according to an IRS news release issued Wednesday.
Others, though, continue to wait. The IRS indicated that federal beneficiaries who did not file a 2019 or 2020 tax return or did not use the non-filers tool last year at IRS.gov, may still be waiting for the latest stimulus payments.
The IRS said it is working with the Social Security Administration, the Railroad Retirement Board and Veterans Affairs to obtain updated 2021 information to send these beneficiaries “fast, automatic payments.”
“More information about when these payments will be made will be provided on IRS.gov as soon as it becomes available,” the IRS said.
On Wednesday, the answers posted at the FAQ at www.IRS.gov remained vague, as well, when it comes to questions regarding Social Security, Railroad Retirement and Department of Veteran Affairs benefit recipients.
What’s going on with Direct Express?
Many people who receive federal benefits get monthly payments on existing prepaid debit cards through Direct Express.
But the Direct Express site only noted on March 23: “According to the IRS, updates on the timing of Economic Impact Payments for federal beneficiaries are expected soon. This includes information for Direct Express cardholders who didn’t file a tax return in 2019 or 2020. Updates will be posted on IRS.gov as soon as possible.”
The Direct Express program provides 4.5 million Americans — the majority of whom do not have a bank account — with a prepaid debit card to receive their monthly Social Security or veterans benefit payments. The expectation is that the IRS would put those stimulus payments automatically on existing Direct Express cards.
The IRS is rolling out the stimulus payments in batches — including by direct deposit, as well as mailing paper checks and plastic prepaid debit cards.
Many people who received their money already had filed tax returns, as they made enough money to be required to file a return.
The second batch of payments includes about 17 million direct deposit payments, which were officially available Wednesday, that totaled more than $38 billion.
Like the first batch of payments, the IRS said, the payments announced Wednesday primarily were sent to eligible taxpayers who filed 2019 or 2020 returns. People who don’t typically file a return but who successfully used the Non-Filers tool on IRS.gov last year were sent payments in the second batch, too.
Those bringing home better than average paychecks won’t get money this time around, though.
For example, a married couple filing a joint return won’t receive the third payment if their adjusted gross income exceeds $160,000.
The cutoff is $120,000 if filing as head of household and $80,000 for single filers and married people filing separate returns.
Why would a married couple get two payments?
A wide range of questions remain regarding the complex program. And not everyone is seeing their payments show up in the way they might expect.
Some married couples, for example, are questioning why they received two forms of payment or just what appears to be half of their expected payment.
IRS officials noted married taxpayers who file jointly — but whose tax return includes an injured spouse claim — may receive their third Economic Impact Payment as two separate payments.
“In most cases, the second payment will be delivered as directed by the tax return,” according to IRS officials.
“In a few instances, one payment may come as a direct deposit and the other mailed.”
An injured spouse claim is filed with the IRS to make sure that the entire tax refund won’t be used to offset your spouse’s past debt, including past federal income taxes by your spouse but not by you.
“By filing Form 8379,” the IRS notes, “the injured spouse may be able to get back his or her share of the joint refund.”
What’s confusing is that the second Economic Impact Payment may come the same week or within weeks of the first payment.
“Both taxpayers on the tax return should check Get My Payment separately using their own Social Security number to see the status of both payments,” according to the IRS. See www.IRS.gov for the Get My Payment Tool.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: If you haven’t gotten the third stimulus check yet, you’re not completely out of luck