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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 BrownSenators introduce bill to award Officer Goodman the Congressional Gold Medal Senate panel unanimously advances Yellen nomination for Treasury Senate Democrats file ethics complaint against Hawley, Cruz over Capitol attack MORE (Ohio), Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanBipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief Bipartisan group of senators: The election is over Seven Senate races to watch in 2022 MORE (N.H.), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetLawmakers move to oust extremists from military Top Democrat pushes for tying unemployment insurance to economic conditions 50-50 Senate opens the door to solutions outlasting Trump's moment of violence MORE (Colo.) and Cory BookerCory BookerDemocrats seek answers on impact of Russian cyberattack on Justice Department, Courts Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official Booker brings girlfriend, actress Rosario Dawson, to inauguration 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 NealJudge says Treasury must give Trump 72 hours before releasing tax info to Democrats Trump's lawyers seek clarity about how tax-return case will proceed following Biden inauguration IRS says start of tax filing season delayed until Feb. 12 MORE (Mass.), Mark TakanoMark Allan TakanoK Street navigates virtual inauguration week Hoyer calls on VA Secretary Wilkie to resign after watchdog report Pelosi calls on Wilkie to resign from VA after watchdog report findings MORE (Calif.) and Danny DavisDaniel (Danny) K. Davis7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics More than 100 Democrats press Trump to extend jobless benefits Democrats urge Treasury to assist Social Security recipients who miss key coronavirus payment deadline 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 TrumpMore than two-thirds of Americans approve of Biden's coronavirus response: poll Sarah Huckabee Sanders to run for governor Mexico's president tests positive for COVID-19 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.