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Economic Impact Payments: Frequently Asked Questions

Since the spring of 2020, the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the Bureau of the Fiscal Service have disbursed billions of dollars in economic relief to Americans in the form of Economic Impact Payments (EIPs). 

These EIPs have been authorized in three rounds:

First Round (authorized by the CARES Act in March 2020):

  • Up to $1,200 for individuals ($2,400 for a married couple) and $500 for each qualifying dependent under the age of 17.

Second Round (authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 in December 2020):

  • Up to $600 for individuals ($1,200 for a married couple) and $600 for each qualifying dependent under the age of 17.

Third Round (authorized by the American Rescue Plan of 2021 in March 2021):

  • Up to $1,400 ($2,800 for a married couple) and $1,400 for each qualifying dependent of any age.

Using the calculations above, this means that an individual without dependents could receive up to $3,200, and an individual with one qualifying dependent could receive up to $5,700. A married couple with three qualifying dependents could receive up to $13,900. For people experiencing homelessness, these stimulus payments could provide a vital lifeline or even mean the difference between being homeless and permanently housed.

How to Get the Third Economic Impact Payment (and/or re-coup the first and second payments): 

If you received the first and second payments, you should receive your third payment automatically. You can check the status of your payment using the IRS’ Get My Payment Tool.

If you did not receive the first and second EIPs and want to also receive the third EIP, YOU MUST FILE A 2020 TAX RETURN. This is the only way you will be able to recoup past payments and will help ensure you receive the third payment. You will receive these payments in the form of a “Recovery Rebate Credit.”

If you have children and you are normally eligible for the Child Tax Credit, filing a tax return will also ensure you receive the Advance Child Tax Credit as authorized by the American Rescue Plan. Between July and December 2021, IRS will make periodic payments to filers who qualify for the Advance Child Tax Credit. You MUST file a 2020 tax return to claim this credit. Depending on your income and the number and ages of children, you could be eligible for a significant payment.

How to File a 2020 Tax Return:

  • Anyone with income of $72,000 or less can file their federal tax return electronically for free through the IRS Free File Program.
  • The fastest way to get your Recovery Rebate Credit (sent as a tax refund) is to file electronically and have it direct deposited into your financial account. You can use a bank account, prepaid debit card or alternative financial products for your direct deposit. You will need to provide routing and account numbers. You may also have a refund check mailed to you.
  • You can also utilize free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) or Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites to get help with your return. VITA and TCE sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls and other convenient locations across the country. To locate the nearest VITA or TCE site near you, use the VITA Locator Tool or call 800-906-9887.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What if I do not have a bank account?

  • There are several lower-cost bank accounts that can be opened online. Visit BankOn for information on how to open an affordable, safe, and certified bank or credit union account online for your stimulus payment and other benefits.
  • If you have a prepaid debit card, you may be able to have the refund applied to your card. Many reloadable prepaid cards or mobile payment apps have account and routing numbers that can be provided to the IRS. You will need to check with the financial institution to ensure the card can be used and to obtain the routing number and account number, which may be different from the card number.

What if I do not have a mailing address?

  • If you do not have a permanent mailing address, you could consider using the address of a trusted family member or friend or ask if you can use the address of a shelter, church, health center, transitional housing program, drop-in center, or other program where you stay or visit frequently.  
  • The U.S. Postal Service also offers a General Mail Delivery program for people without a permanent address; this service is not available at every post office, so you will need to find a post office near you and verify that “General Delivery” is listed under services. You should also call ahead to ensure they will accept your check on your behalf.
  • If you are a homelessness services system provider, consider whether you might be willing to accept mail on behalf of your clients and guests, or whether you could provide secure mailboxes or storage lockers for clients and guests.

Will the Economic Impact Payments affect my other benefits, such as Social Security, SNAP, or Housing Assistance?

  • No. Economic Impact Payments cannot be counted as income when determining if you or anyone else is eligible for benefits or assistance, or how much you or anyone else can receive, under any federal program or under any state or local program financed in whole or in part with federal funds. These programs also cannot count Economic Impact Payments as a resource for purposes of determining eligibility for a period of 12 months from receipt.

I do not have a W-2. What should I do?

  • If you did not work during 2020 or you made less than $600, you would not have received a W-2. You can still file a 2020 tax return using Free File.
  • If you worked in 2020 and made more than $600, but lost your W-2, the best way to get a replacement is to contact the employer and request a copy. If you cannot get a copy from your employer, the IRS may be able to help. The Social Security Administration can also furnish a copy of your W-2 for a fee.

What is the deadline to file a 2020 tax return? 

  • 2020 Tax Returns are due on May 17, 2021. However, if you do not owe taxes and are only filing to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit, you have three years from the deadline to file. 

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