IRS responds to stimulus check delays for benefit recipients

Regulation | May 20, 2020 | by Juliana Bilowich

Nearly two months after the CARES Act, some low-income households have not yet received stimulus checks.

While many people across the country have received their economic impact payments approved by the CARES Act, some low-income households are still waiting for relief. Under pressure from lawmakers, the IRS has added information and telephone representatives to help answer questions.

Payment delays reported by some HUD-assisted residents

As the health crisis turned quickly into an economic crisis, the CARES Act approved an economic impact payment to individuals in the form of an advance tax credit. For people under certain incomes, the “stimulus checks” were deposited to bank accounts using tax return or benefit account information; qualifying individuals without banking information were to receive paper checks, and traditional non-filers were to enter banking account information using an online IRS tool.

While many people across the country have received their payments, some social security and other benefit recipients report not receiving their checks. In other cases, part of the household’s combined stimulus payment was received, but not all. For many HUD-assisted seniors, whose average annual income is under $14,000, the stimulus checks are critical for stocking up on quarantine supplies, groceries, and medicine.

IRS adds FAQs for Social Security, Veterans Affairs, and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries

On May 15th, the IRS added four answers to their stimulus check FAQs addressing payment actions for Social Security, Railroad Retirement and Department of Veteran Affairs benefit recipients. The new FAQs cover information for spouses or dependents of pension recipients, qualifying stimulus payment amounts, and actions required by the recipient.

According to the IRS FAQs question #51, “Most Social Security and Railroad Retirement recipients who receive a Form SSA-1099 or RRB-1099 have already been issued their Economic Impact Payment… Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Veteran benefit recipient will start receiving their Economic Impact Payments mid-May. They can check the Get My Payment application for the status of their Payment.”

The question also notes that “The Get My Payment application will show 'Payment Status Not Available' until the payment is being issued. This response does not mean you are not eligible or will not receive a Payment. If you used the Non-Filers tool, however, your Payment will generally be issued within two weeks from the date when you used the tool.”

IRS adds phone option for stimulus checks questions

In response to the frustration by many who have not received their payment, the IRS on May 18th added 3,500 telephone representatives to answer questions. According to the IRS statement regarding phone calls, “Answers for most Economic Impact Payment questions are available on the automated message for people who call the phone number provided in the letter (Notice 1444). Those who need additional assistance at the conclusion of the message will have the option of talking to a telephone representative.”

However, the IRS stated that telephone assistance and other services will remain limited, and urged constituents to continue using IRS.gov for information. The phone number for assistance in Notice 1444 is listed as 800-919-9835; another contact number for the IRS is 800-829-1040.

Lawmakers urge transparency on stimulus payment status

Several lawmakers have also expressed frustration with the IRS for lack of transparency with stimulus check payments. On May 19th, four congressional lawmakers from New Hampshire sent a letter to the IRS and Treasury urging action. The letter references many social security and other beneficiaries with missing or incomplete payments.

Senators Hassan and Shaheen, along with Representatives Pappas and Kuster, requested that the Treasury and IRS “provide recourse as quickly as possible to individuals who have not received the full stimulus payments they are entitled to.”