Finance

Blacks, Hispanics less likely to receive stimulus checks quickly: study

Most U.S. households received coronavirus stimulus payments by mid-to-late May, but there were “significant disparities” by income, race and ethnicity and family-citizenship status, according to a paper released Thursday by the Urban Institute.

“Adults were less likely to receive the payments if they had family incomes below 100 percent of [the federal poverty level] or if they were Black or Hispanic, and particularly if they were Hispanic and in families with noncitizens,” researchers at the think tank wrote.

The Treasury Department and IRS this year sent one-time payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child for individuals with incomes up to $75,000 and married couples with incomes up to $150,000. The coronavirus relief checks, which were phased out for households with higher incomes, were part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act that President Trump signed into law on March 27.

The IRS said in early June that it has sent payments to all eligible Americans whose information it had on file. But the IRS has faced challenges in getting payments to everyone who is eligible, particularly for low-income households that are not typically required to file tax returns.

The Urban Institute’s paper, based on data from a survey the think tank conducted in mid-to-late May, found that nearly 70 percent of survey respondents reported that their families had received a stimulus payment, but that percentage varied among different demographic groups.

“We found differences in receipt by family income, race/ethnicity, and family citizenship status that could reflect differences in eligibility, differences in whose information is on file with the IRS for processing, and differences in how quickly payments could be made,” Urban researchers wrote.

About 59 percent of adults with income at or below the federal poverty level said they had gotten their payments, while about 78 percent of adults with incomes of between 100 percent and 600 percent of the federal poverty level said they had, according to the paper. The federal poverty level for a family of four in 2020 is about $26,000, and 600 percent of the poverty level for a family of four is about $157,000.

About 74 percent of non-Hispanic white adults reported getting a payment, compared to 69 percent of non-Hispanic Black adults and 64 percent of Hispanic adults, according to the paper.

About 70 percent of Hispanic adults in households where all family members are U.S. citizens said they had gotten payments, compared to 54 percent of Hispanic adults that have a noncitizen in their family, the survey found.

The survey was conducted online from May 14-27 among 4,352 adults ages 18 to 64. The margin of sampling error for the full sample was 1.9 percentage points.

Taxpayers are only eligible to get payments if they have work-eligible Social Security numbers. U.S. citizens who are married to people without work-eligible Social Security numbers are not eligible for payments unless one member of the couple is a member of the U.S. armed forces or the spouses file their tax returns separately.

The paper also found that a significant percentage of those who hadn’t received their payments by mid-to-late May had not filed tax returns in 2018 or 2019 and do not receive Social Security benefits. People who fall into that group generally have to provide information to the IRS through a web tool in order to receive their payments.

According to the survey, 38 percent of nonrecipients with income of less than 600 percent of the federal poverty level had not filed a tax return for either of the last two years and are not receiving Social Security. About 20 percent of those in this group reported not having internet access at home, which could make it challenging for them to provide the necessary information to the IRS.

Additionally, only 60 percent of nonrecipients with income of less than 600 percent of the federal poverty level said that they or a family member have a bank account.

Janet Holtzblatt, a co-author of the paper, said in an interview with The Hill that “generally, it’s difficult to reach people through the tax system who do not file tax returns.”

The paper suggests that one approach the federal government could take in the long-term is to have stimulus payments sent to nonfilers through state agencies that administer Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. However, this approach faces a number of challenges, and would not address the issue of getting payments to people who don’t file tax returns and don’t receive government benefits, researchers wrote.

Congress is currently debating whether to include a second round of direct payments in the next coronavirus relief package. House Democrats passed a bill in May that included a second round that is similar to those authorized in March but would be more generous for dependents and would be available for taxpayers who don’t have Social Security numbers. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has expressed openness to another round of payments, but suggested that they be more targeted to low-income households.

Tags CARES Act Coronavirus COVID-19 Donald Trump Mitch McConnell Pandemic stimulus checks Urban Institute

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