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Over the last two months, the IRS says it delivered 159 million economic impact payments totaling almost $267 billion.

Yet there may be millions of low-income Americans who are entitled to the stimulus money under the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (Cares) Act but they haven’t accessed the online tool the agency created to funnel the funds to them.

People who don’t normally file a tax return or don’t receive certain federal benefits have until Oct. 15 to use the non-filer tool at if they want to get up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for married couples by end of the year, the IRS said last week. There’s an additional $500 payment for each dependent child who was under 17 at the end of 2019. You don’t need earned income or a job to qualify for a stimulus payment.

If you filed a return for 2018 or 2019 you don’t have to use the non-filers tool. The same is true if you receive Social Security retirement, survivor or disability, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Railroad Retirement benefits or Veterans Affairs benefits. You are supposed to get an automatic payment. If you haven’t received the money, it may be on the way.

If you aren’t a federal beneficiary and you don’t normally file a federal return because you earned $12,200 or less as an individual or under $24,400 as a married couple, the IRS doesn’t know you qualify for the stimulus payment. So you have to use the non-filers tool.

“Anyone who registers by October 15 will receive their payment by the end of the year,” the IRS said.

Because the IRS isn’t processing paper returns now due to the coronavirus and stay-at-home orders, people have to register on the online tool. This could be a problem, of course, for many low-income individuals, as well as the homeless, who may not have Internet access. Places where they might go to use a computer, such as public libraries or nonprofit communication organizations, may still be closed.

The non-filers tool will also allow people to provide banking information for direct deposit information, which is quicker than having to wait for a mailed check. This also presents an issue: Millions of low-income individuals don’t have bank accounts.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has been making a push to reach the “unbanked” to make it easier for them to receive stimulus payments. In 2017, about 8.4 million U.S. households, made up of 14.1 million adults, were unbanked, meaning no one in the household had a checking or savings account, according to the most recent findings from the FDIC. The nonprofit Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund has a “Bank On” initiative to help underserved communities find affordable banking and credit union accounts.

The IRS says it will team up with community groups that serve homeless individuals, underserved communities, and limited English households to get the word out about stimulus payments. The agency has created an online page with materials groups can download or post on social media.

One caution: Do not use the non-filer tool if you have filed or intend to file a 2019 federal return. You can still get your stimulus payment by filing a return. The IRS is processing stimulus payments based on recently filed electronic returns.

The economic impact payment is an advance credit for 2020. Under the Cares Act, payments must be made by Dec. 31. If people don’t receive a payment by the end of the year, they still have an opportunity to get the stimulus funds. However, to get the money they have to file a 2020 federal return next year.

So far, the IRS said 120 million stimulus payments have been sent by direct deposit, 35 million by check and 4 million by prepaid debit card. The debit card resulted in confusion, and many people threw out the card thinking it was a piece of junk mail.

Here’s a link for more information on the stimulus payments, including answers to frequently asked questions.

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Reader Question of the Week

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Q: I’ve lost my job and need to take Social Security to make ends meet. Can I start and then stop taking Social Security once I return to work?

A: “Yes, an individual who starts Social Security benefits, and has reached full retirement age (FRA), has the option to voluntarily suspend his or her benefits to earn delayed retirement credits (DRC) until he or she attains age 70,” according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). “We will suspend the individual’s benefits effective with the month following the month of the request. For example, if an individual requests to suspend his or her benefits in August 2020, we will suspend benefits effective September 2020.

For many seniors, the coronavirus has changed the debate about when to take Social Security.

For individuals who have reached FRA and return to work, please read: What happens if I work and get Social Security retirement benefits? This post explains how work affects your benefits.

Read this explainer from the SSA for information on how to withdraw a benefit application.

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