Government Aid for Coronavirus
As part of the Coronavirus government aid package, many taxpayers are receiving free money in the form of a stimulus check. The stimulus check is a one-time payment sent by the federal government. The check has two primary purposes. The first is to provide financial aid to taxpayers who are unable to work due to closures occurring as a result of the virus. The second reason is to incentivize spending to keep the economy afloat.
The first round of stimulus checks was sent out in April. Because the checks are going to millions of Americans, it is difficult to determine how long it will take to receive your check. The U.S. Treasury is optimistic the process will not take too long, and as of writing, over 80 million checks have gone out. More details on how to get free money from the stimulus payment is detailed below.
Who Qualifies for the Stimulus Check?
Because of the severity of the Coronavirus, the Federal Government placed few limitations on who qualifies for the stimulus check. In order to get free money from the government, you must have a Social Security number.
To physically receive the check, the government must have a mailing address. If you filed a tax return for either this or the previous year, all your information is already on file and you do not have to worry. For Social Security recipients who normally do not pay taxes, there is an alternative method available. These recipients can file a general form with the IRS to confirm their address and identity.
How Much Free Money is Available?
There is a limit to how much you can receive in government aid. The amount you receive changes based on your adjusted gross income, which you report every year when you file your taxes. If you have not filed your taxes for 2019, your income is determined using your 2018 filing. If you reported a gross income of up to $75,000, you could receive the maximum amount of free money from the government, $1,200. The checks are reduced by $5 for every $100 you are above the $75,000 income limit. If you earned more than $99,000 on your last tax filing, you are not eligible for any aid.
The amount changes slightly if you are filing as a married couple. For married couples, the income limit is raised to $150,000, and you receive $2,400 instead of $1,200. Once you exceed the $150,000 limit, the checks decrease by $5 for every $100. Once you hit $198,000, you are no longer eligible for assistance.
If you file as a head of household, the limit is increased to $112,500. Once you hit $136,500, you no longer receive any aid. On top of the initial amount of government aid, heads of household and married couples also receive an additional $500 for each dependent under 17 years of age.
How to Get Free Money from the Government
How you receive your free money from the government depends on how you file your tax returns. When you file your tax returns, you have the option to receive your tax refund through direct deposit. If this information is included in your most recent tax filing, the free money is deposited directly into your account. In addition, these taxpayers are expected to receive their payments first, since they do not have to wait for a check to physically arrive in the mail.
If your direct deposit information is not on file with the IRS, you have two options. If you have not filed your 2019 taxes, you may do so now and include your direct deposit information. The other option, to receive your government aid through direct deposit, involves using the Get My Payment portal. This is available through the IRS website.
You need several pieces of identifying information to setup direct deposit using this method. You must be able to provide your Social Security number or your individual tax ID. The form asks you to list your birthdate, current street address and your postal code. Once you enter the necessary information, enter the routing and account number of your bank, which allows the government to send free money directly into your account.
In addition to setting up your direct deposit information, you can also check the status of your refund. The website experiences heavy traffic, with many users reporting long wait times before they are able to access the site. For the best results, try to login at later hours, when less users are attempting to access the site.
If you do not have direct deposit set up with the IRS and are unable to provide the necessary information, your check will arrive in the mail. As of writing, checks are already being sent, but it is expected to be several more weeks before all of the checks are sent out. Some financial experts warn it may take even longer, though it is hard to accurately predict at this point.
Issues with Government Aid
Unfortunately, not all users have had a smooth experience receiving their aid. If you have not received your free money but the IRS app indicates it was already sent to you, it is possible the money was sent to a prior address or bank account from an older tax filing. If you recently added your information to the IRS website, it may take several days to process, which can result in an error message when you check the status of your payment.
Currently, the IRS app is still new. There has already been one major overhaul to improve the app, but it may take several more weeks before the system is fully ironed out. If you want your government aid and the app is unable to help you, your only other option is to attempt to contact the IRS directly. The app includes a number you can use to call or email the agency for help.
What can you Spend the Government Aid on?
Unlike other forms of government aid, the stimulus checks do not have any requirements regarding how you spend the money. If you receive other forms of assistance from a government aid program, such as SNAP or TANF, the income from the stimulus check is not applied to those programs, so you do not have to worry about losing your benefits.