Democrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people

Democrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people
© Aaron Schwartz

Democrats on Friday urged the Trump administration to automatically issue stimulus checks to recipients of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits, after the administration said it would do so for Social Security recipients.

"This is the fastest, most-effective way to provide desperately needed help to more than 3 million low-income veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities," a group of more than 40 Senate Democrats wrote in a letter Friday to the leaders of the Treasury Department, Veterans Affairs Department and Social Security Administration.

Democratic Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues Democratic senators urge regulators to investigate Instacart over 'tip baiting' Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers MORE (Ohio), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanSenators ask DeVos to adjust FAFSA form due to the coronavirus pandemic The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump spotted wearing a face mask Sen. Shaheen tells Biden campaign she does not want to be vetted for VP MORE (N.H.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetWarren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply Congress headed toward unemployment showdown MORE (Colo.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThis week: Senate reconvenes as protests roil nation amid pandemic City leaders, Democratic lawmakers urge Trump to tamp down rhetoric as protests rage across US Sunday shows - George Floyd's death, protests bump COVID-19 from headlines MORE (N.J.) took the lead on the letter. Three key House Democrats sent a separate letter to Treasury and the IRS on the same issue.

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"Requiring SSI and VA recipients to file tax returns in order to get the payments would create artificial and needless bureaucratic hurdles for millions of the most vulnerable individuals in our society, and would put them at risk of experiencing a delay or a complete inability to receive their payments," Democratic Reps. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealExpanding tax credit for businesses retaining workers gains bipartisan support House Democrats press Treasury on debit cards used for coronavirus relief payments House Democrats' bill would create a second round of direct coronavirus relief payments MORE (Mass.), Mark TakanoMark Allan TakanoHuman Rights Campaign rolls out congressional endorsements on Equality Act anniversary House committees move toward virtual hearings for COVID-19 era VA under fire as coronavirus infections among veterans, staff surge MORE (Calif.) and Danny DavisDaniel (Danny) K. DavisDemocrats urge Treasury to assist Social Security recipients who miss key coronavirus payment deadline Democrats urge administration to automatically issue coronavirus checks to more people Illinois governor endorses Biden one day before primary MORE (Ill.) wrote.

Neal leads the House Ways and Means Committee, Takano leads the House Veterans' Affairs Committee and Davis leads a Ways and Means subcommittee.

The coronavirus relief law that President TrumpDonald John TrumpFauci says his meetings with Trump have 'dramatically decreased' McEnany criticizes DC mayor for not imposing earlier curfew amid protests Stopping Israel's annexation is a US national security interest MORE signed last week authorizes one-time direct payments to most Americans of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. The amounts start phasing out for single filers making more than $75,000 and married couples making more than $150,000.

The advance payment amounts are generally based on people's 2019 or 2018 tax returns. For people who have not filed tax returns in either year, the law allows the IRS to look at Social Security and railroad retirement benefit statements.

The IRS is working to create an online portal where people who have not submitted their direct-deposit information to the agency in the past can do so in order to get their rebate more quickly.

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The IRS initially released guidance suggesting that Social Security recipients would have to file tax returns to receive their payments. After lawmakers raised concerns, the Treasury Department said late Wednesday that Social Security recipients would not need to file returns and would receive the payments automatically.

The Democratic lawmakers also want people who receive VA and SSI benefits to receive their rebates without having to file tax returns. SSI benefits go to low-income people who are elderly, blind or disabled.

The lawmakers said that the federal government already has the data it needs to get the payments to VA and SSI benefit recipients automatically.

"The process for getting SSI and VA beneficiaries payments would mirror the process that it is using for seniors and people with disabilities receiving Social Security: Treasury can match its data against the Social Security Administration’s and the Department of Veterans Affairs’ data to determine those SSI and veterans beneficiaries who aren’t part of a tax filing unit and then issue them automatic payments for the amounts which Congress intended them to receive," the senators wrote.

"Treasury should not require people with disabilities and low-income veterans and seniors to file a form to receive stimulus payments when the federal government already has the information it needs," they added.

The senators also noted that the coronavirus relief law requires Treasury to conduct a public-awareness campaign to ensure that those who aren't typically required to file tax returns receive their payments. The lawmakers asked the administration about its plans for this campaign.