Treasury Reverses Course and Automates Stimulus Payments

Empire Justice Center April 30, 2020

On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law.  Included in the “stimulus” provisions is an economic impact payment of $1,200 for most Americans with income less than $75,000, plus a payment of $500 for children under 17 years old.  While several obstacles do remain for many individuals, procedures are now in place for at least partial payment to issue automatically to recipients of Social Security, SSI, and VA benefits.


The issuance of rebate checks relies primarily on information taken from 2018 and 2019 tax returns, and payments were initially rolled out with no mechanism in place for non-filers.  This would have made it necessary for recipients of SSI and SSD, as well most other poor people, to file a tax return in order to receive payment.  Fortunately, this changed.


After significant public pressure, Treasury agreed to a series of modifications to streamline payment for Social Security and SSI recipients so that they would receive checks automatically without the need to file.  The changes were made incrementally, leaving advocates to sort through a confusing series of rapid developments.  On April 10, 2020, the IRS launched a portal for non-filers to request payment without the filing of a tax return.  Automation was later expanded to Social Security beneficiaries, to SSI a few days later, and to VA beneficiaries two days after that.


While these changes now capture many SSI and SSD, many remain left out and must file in order to receive full payment.

  • Most DAP clients, who have claims pending for SSI or SSD and are not currently receiving benefits;
  • Individuals recently awarded benefits since January 1, 2020;
  • Child recipients of SSI; and
  • Individuals with children under age 17 who did not claim them as a dependent on a tax return in 2018 or 2019 will be required to request payment in order to receive the $500 additional stimulus payment for their child.


As this newsletter went to press, SSA and Treasury announced, with less than 36 hours-notice, a deadline of noon on Wednesday, April 22 for non-filer Social Security beneficiaries with children to submit their information in order to receive the $500 payment per child quickly. They will otherwise have to file a tax return for 2020.  SSI recipients will need to file for dependent children via the non-filers portal by May 5, 2020.


The stimulus payment will not be counted against the SSI resource limit for 12 months.


There are additional protections from the funds being garnished from banks or creditors.  Moreover, the Treasury Offset Program, which is used to collect unpaid federal debts such as taxes or student loans, is suspended from March through September.  That means clients with ongoing monthly recoupment may see a bump in their benefits for these months.  At this time, one type of debt that still may be collected against the stimulus payment is outstanding child support debt.