Many other parents have complained that although they received their $1,200 stimulus payment as part of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (Cares) Act, they have not been sent the extra $500 promised for each dependent child under 17.
And now Congress is poised to send a second round of stimulus payments. Brown doesn’t trust that any of the dependent money will reach her this year.
Republicans and Democrats agree that more financial aid is needed for American families. This time around, the legislation is likely to expand the universe of dependents eligible for the extra $500. Under the original Cares Act, the dependent payment was limited to children under 17. The new legislation, if passed, would provide an additional $500 to taxpayers with dependents of any age, including college students or elderly parents who are claimed by their adult children on their tax returns.
The expansion of this benefit to cover all dependents, especially disabled adults being cared for by their parents, was an oversight that needed correcting.
“We are those who have intellectually disabled adult children who live with us, primarily because of a shortage of places where they could live on their own or independently in a group home kind of situation," one Maryland father said in an email. "To find that we couldn’t get any kind of dependent stimulus for our son simply because of his age just seemed wrong. We spend a lot of out-of-pocket to raise him, keep him safe, keep him healthy, keep him happy. Just like a parent with a child under 18 does.”
But for folks like Brown, there’s still the issue of the first $500 payment, the one promised in March.
“When I heard that more money may be coming, I just smirked,” she said in an interview. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
This is another stumble in a stimulus program that has been plagued with glitches. The IRS created an online non-filers tool for Americans who earn too little to file a tax return but are eligible for a stimulus payment. For the most part, the online tool has worked for people who needed to let the IRS know they are eligible for stimulus funds. However, the portal hasn’t worked out well for some people collecting federal benefits such as Social Security disability, Supplemental Security Income or Veterans Affairs benefits.
Although these federal beneficiaries receive automatic stimulus payments, those with dependent children under 17 have to use the non-filers tool to claim the $500 payment.
Here’s the problem. Many of these people didn’t know they had to use the non-filers tool. Others missed an arbitrary deadline the IRS set for them to claim the $500 payment on top of the $1,200 allotted to every taxpayer of low or moderate-income. Stimulus payments were sent either by check, direct deposit or an economic-impact debit card.
Brown says she met the deadline to submit information about her son, but she still hasn’t received the extra $500. She shared with me an email she sent in May to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“I need to express my frustration and anger,” Brown wrote to Mnuchin, telling him she represents “thousands of families who have been put on the back burner for the emergency stimulus funding. … Our families are the ones that need it the most!! We are kept at the poverty level to maintain Medicaid for our children’s health benefits. We are being told NEXT year when filing [for] 2020 we can claim [the $500]. I’m writing you this to bring to the President’s attention on how wrong this is. Please help out families who truly deserve help now just like every other American citizen.”
Several parents living in Philadelphia filed a lawsuit this month against the Treasury Department and the IRS. The suit challenges the agencies on setting a deadline for taxpayers who used the online non-filer tool, and their decision not to send payments to those who missed it. The agency says the parents will have to wait until next year to get the money when they file a 2020 tax return.
If more economic impact payments are coming, Treasury and the IRS need to make sure the most economically vulnerable get every dollar promised in the legislation.
“I don’t have entitlement issues," Brown said of the financial aid. “I just honestly could use it. People look at you when you receive federal benefits and think you are just living off the government. It’s demeaning. I would love to work, but I’m at the hospital a lot with my son. There’s no extra for anything."