The IRS Delivered Economic Impact Payments In Record Time, So Why Haven’t Some Needy Families Gotten Their Money?

The IRS Delivered Economic Impact Payments In Record Time, So Why Haven’t Some Needy Families Gotten Their Money?

With Congress about to debate a second round of stimulus payments for tens of millions of people, it is important to review some lessons about who d

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With Congress about to debate a second round of stimulus payments for tens of millions of people, it is important to review some lessons about who did not quickly get the first round of economic impact payments it approved last March. In a new report—Who Did Not Get the Economic Impact Payments by Mid-to-Late May, and Why?—Michael Karpman, a researcher in the Urban Institute’s Health Policy Center, and I use the Coronavirus Tracking Survey to identify some of the barriers.

Overall, the Internal Revenue Service did an impressive job distributing $267 billion to 159 million recipients in just over two months after the enactment of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

There were glitches, of course, and most were corrected rapidly. But the glitches don’t fully explain why four in ten adults, with income at or below the federal poverty level and between the ages 18 and 64, did not report receipt of payments by mid-to-late May. By comparison, 78 percent of other potentially eligible adults say that they did get payments by then.

Who got the money the fastest?

Over 81 million economic impact payments were issued in mid-April. The lucky recipients shared three characteristics:

  • The IRS had already processed their 2019 or 2018 income tax return;
  • They received a tax refund based on their last income tax return; and
  • That refund had been directly deposited in…



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