Rachel Dissell, Guest Reporter
The federal government recently sent out the first wave of stimulus checks – formally called Economic Impact Payments – meant to help people meet their basic needs as large parts of the country and economy are shut down due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Citizens who make less than $75,000 a year or married couples who make less than $150,000 are eligible for a $1,200 individual payment and an additional $500 for each child under age 17.
The checks, which are being deposited into bank accounts or mailed out by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have led to some confusion.
The Ward 7 Observer talked with local benefits experts, including Rachel Cahill who has consulted for the Center for Community Solutions, and representatives from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, to answer common questions about the money.
Is the stimulus money a “loan” on my tax return for next year?
No. It’s confusing because the money is often referred to as an “advance” but that is only because it is linked as a special credit to your 2021 taxes. The stimulus money is in addition to any tax refund you’ll be eligible for next year.
What if I don’t claim my money and then I file taxes next year?
If you do not claim or receive the money now, it would be included if you receive a tax refund next year.
Is there a deadline for claiming my stimulus money?
If you receive Social Security for disability or from a deceased spouse, or Railroad Retirement benefits, you have until noon April 22 to use the online IRS tool to claim the $500 stimulus payment for any children who qualify. If you miss that deadline, you can still receive your $1,200 but will have to wait until next year for the additional payment.
I’ve heard people are getting scammed. How can I avoid that?
There’s only one place you should file to claim your stimulus money if it is not automatically sent to you or if you did not file taxes in 2018 or 2019. Here is the link: https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment.
Will the stimulus check hurt my benefits if I get SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), child care assistance or Medicaid?
The stimulus check will not count toward your monthly income that gets reported to qualify for benefits.
Do all children who live with me qualify for the additional $500 per child?
No. The law passed only allows the $500 for children who are 16 and younger. It also covers dependents, like a person who is permanently disabled.
What if I am divorced or have a custody agreement? Who gets the check?
The stimulus money will most likely be sent to the person who claimed the child or children on their taxes in 2018 or 2019. If taxes were not filed, the first person to claim the children using the IRS Get My Payment tool is likely to receive the stimulus money.
Can my stimulus check be garnished or intercepted to pay other debts?
Your check can’t be taken to pay taxes you owe, student loans or unemployment overpayments. It can be taken for back child support, and Ohio officials said that will happen if child support is past due by more than $150 for a child receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or behind by $500 for a child not receiving TANF. You should receive a notice from the government if your check is applied to child support.
What if my spouse owes back child support? Will my stimulus money be taken?
What if I am divorced or have a custody arrangement? Who gets the check?
The stimulus money will most likely be sent to the person who claimed the child or children on their taxes in 2018 or 2019. If taxes were not filed, the first person to claim the children on the IRS website is likely to receive the stimulus money.