Prisoners, Americans Behind on Child Support Won’t Get New Stimulus Checks

GOP-Democrat debate ensures checks won't be sent until August
July 28, 2020 Updated: July 28, 2020

The Senate Finance Committee said that the newly unveiled HEALS Act, proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Monday, will include direct stimulus payments and checks. Meanwhile, top Democrats including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) rejected much of the bill, ensuring that the payments will not be distributed until August.

However, certain people who may have qualified otherwise will not receive the $1,200 checks, similar to the CARES Act passed in March. Those who have past-due child support payments, prisoners, and people who died prior to Jan. 1 of this year will not receive the payments. The government sent 1.1 million stimulus checks to dead people worth more than $1 billion, according to a watchdog report last month.

“As under the CARES Act, the additional rebates are generally not subject to administrative offset for past-due federal or state debts, with the exception of past-due child support payments,” the committee wrote in a memo (pdf). “They also prohibit any payment of an advanced rebate to any individual in prison at the time Treasury processes the rebate. Furthermore, any individual in prison for all of 2020 is ineligible to claim the rebate as a 2020 tax credit,” the memo said.

The rebates will be protected from bank garnishment or from private creditors or debt collectors, while the “protection from bank garnishment is also applied retroactively to the CARES Act rebates,” it said.

There is about a $2 trillion gap between the $1 trillion GOP proposal and Democrats’ $3 trillion HEROES Act, meaning that the two parties have several days until Aug. 7, when the recess starts, to come to an agreement. Earlier this year, when the CARES Act was passed, it took about two weeks for stimulus payments to go out, with many starting around April 15.

The $1 trillion HEALS Act will allow $500 payments to dependents who are aged 17 or older. A frequent point of criticism against the CARES Act was that many families with dependents didn’t receive the payments, but under the HEALS Act, dependents of any age can get the $500.

This second round of checks would provide “even more support for families who care for vulnerable adult dependents,” McConnell said on the floor of the Senate Monday.

Democrats in the House-passed HEROES Act wanted to expand the $1,200 payments to dependents. Direct checks under the $3 trillion bill would pay for a maximum of three dependents, meaning that a household of five could receive up to $6,000 from the federal government.

The second round of checks will follow the same eligibility formula as the first, according to the memo. Individuals who have a gross adjusted income of up to $75,000 can receive $1,200 and couples earning $150,000 would get $2,400.

The payments will be reduced by $5 for every $100 in income and phased out entirely at $99,000 and $198,000, respectively.

Individuals who receive no income and federal benefits recipients are still eligible for $1,200 payments or checks.

Most Americans will not have to take any additional steps to receive the payments or checks, and the Internal Revenue Service will use their 2019 tax return or their 2018 tax return as an alternative.