The Internal Revenue Service has confirmed in its latest press release that approximately one hundred sixty-five million coronavirus stimulus checks with a value of $388 billion have been disbursed under the American Rescue Plan.
Despite this success in assisting millions of cash-strapped Americans amid the ongoing pandemic, the IRS is also aware that potentially hundreds to thousands of homeless people have been waiting for months to get their hands on the stimulus checks that they are entitled to.
This problem has become particularly acute in Seattle and its surrounding areas. According to the Seattle Times, after reporting that many of the homeless had yet to receive their second and third stimulus checks, Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s office recently said that the IRS will reissue payments to those who are impacted. Neither the tax agency nor the office knew the exact number of checks.
“It’s unacceptable that these checks have been delayed and I’ve made that extremely clear to the IRS,” Sen. Patty Murray said in a statement.
“I’m pushing IRS and other federal agencies to resolve this situation and get people who are unhoused or don’t have a permanent address their relief payments as quickly as possible,” she added.
Getting the funds out to the homeless has been an ongoing issue throughout the three rounds of stimulus payments. To date, it is known that most of the stimulus checks have been disbursed automatically—either via direct deposits, paper checks, or prepaid debit cards. But without a home address or a bank account, it makes the IRS’ job much more difficult to get the stimulus money out to those who need it the most.
This is precisely the reason why the agency initially developed and launched a non-filers tool last year for the first round of stimulus checks, but that tool is no longer active.
Currently, for many of the homeless, the best option is to take the necessary time and file a tax return, even if there was no income earned in the previous year. The IRS has asserted that this is the fastest way to garner the necessary information to disburse the stimulus funds as quickly as possible.
However, the agency states: “People do not need a permanent address or a bank account. They don’t need to have a job. For eligible individuals, the IRS will still issue the payment even if they haven’t filed a tax return in years.”
The IRS noted that these individuals may put the address of a friend or a relative to receive the money, adding that an address of a shelter or a drop-in day center is also acceptable.
The agency also has been busy encouraging individuals to set up a free account at a local bank. To offer even more assistance, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has launched a campaign that identifies more than seventy banks and credit unions that are offering free or low-cost accounts.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.