Millions who receive federal retirement and disability benefits will see COVID-19 stimulus checks by April 7, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
Part of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, the direct payments follow weeks of frustration from lawmakers and low-income Americans who were left waiting as the Social Security Administration sorted out payment information with the IRS after the agency had already issued checks to millions of others.
The “large set” of payments started going out Friday, the IRS said in a news release. The recipients include federal beneficiaries who didn’t file a 2020 or 2019 tax return and didn’t use last year’s “Non-Filers” tool, totaling about 30 million who depend on Social Security retirement, survivor or disability (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or income from the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB).
“These payments will begin to be issued this weekend, with the projection that the majority of these payments will be sent electronically and received on April 7,” the IRS said Thursday.
The beneficiaries had to wait longer than millions of other Americans in part because the Social Security Administration did not forward all the necessary payment information to the IRS. The SSA said it was effectively barred from sending the IRS the payment files without a specific provision or agreement in Biden’s legislation.
Lawmakers on the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, wrote to SSA to say the delay for some of the “most vulnerable” Americans was “inexplicable.”
Steve Richardson, SSA communications director for the New England region, noted that unlike last year’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the American Rescue Plan did not directly appropriate funds or establish “a reimbursable agreement with IRS to fund us for our work to support their issuance” of the payments.
Both before and after Biden’s relief bill became law, SSA discussed with Treasury and IRS that the agency “is unable by law to use our administrative appropriation to conduct work on any non-mission provision or program,” he said.
“We have been aggressively working with Treasury and IRS since passage and successfully signed the reimbursable agreement in less than one week after passage (on March 17th),” he added. “We sent test files to IRS a few days following the execution of this agreement.”
As of last week, the IRS had disbursed more than 130 million payments across the country totaling about $335 billion.
The direct payments are meant to send $1,400 to adults earning less than $75,000 and couples less than $150,000, as well as $1,400 for dependents. The checks phase out for Americans making more than $75,000, with a hard cut-off at $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for married couples.
All three major stimulus packages since the pandemic hit the U.S. have made clear that those who do not earn enough to file taxes, including many of the beneficiaries the Democratic lawmakers pressed IRS and SSA about, are eligible for payments.
A recent batch of payments will also go to Americans who received partial payments based on 2019 tax returns but are eligible for more due to income or family changes according to their recently-processed 2020 tax returns, the IRS said.