The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in America has caused a major riff in the nation’s economy leading to massive unemployment, the shuttering of businesses and a crisis on the stock market. Americans are applying for government programs to help pay their bills, however many are still not taking advantage of the money entitled to them.
Between income tax refunds, the recent stimulus checks and other government payouts, officials say they’re doing everything they can to make sure Americans are getting the funds they qualify for. To keep the nation going, government agencies are also eliminating some barriers that previously prevented many from receiving funds they are owed.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury and IRS today announced that nearly 130 million Americans have received Economic Impact Payments, worth more than $218 billion, in less than five weeks.
“This Administration has delivered Economic Impact Payments to Americans in record time,” said Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “More payments are on their way as we continue to deliver this much-needed relief to the American people.”
Reports indicate that in 2019, the Bureau of Fiscal Services’s Treasury Offset Program within the Department of Treasury collected $9.3 billion in debts taxpayers owed to government agencies. Before anyone receives any type of federal payment, the Treasury’s database is searched to see if they owe a delinquent debt. This includes delinquent student loans or failure to pay back federal housing or business loans.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced in March that, due to the COVID-19 national emergency, the Department will halt collection actions and wage garnishments to provide additional assistance to borrowers. The flexibility will last for at least 60 days from March 13.
“These are difficult times for many Americans, and we don’t want to do anything that will make it harder for them to make ends meet or create additional stress,” said DeVos. “Americans counting on their tax refund or Social Security check to make ends meet during this national emergency should receive those funds, and our actions today will make sure they do.”
Akilah B. from Oklahoma told the AmNews she filed her income taxes in February before the March 13 cutoff date and her over substantial tax refund was offset due to a default student loan The single mother of two said she did not receive any of the much-needed money. She found out about the changes in collections and started to take action.
“When I pulled up my profile on the IRS website, it said my federal refund was offset to pay a past due debt from a creditor or a federal institution,” she said. “I notice people were posting a number to the IRS that you could call because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Akilah called the number about four times but the call volume was so high and she never got to a live person leading her to believe she would never get her money assuming she did not qualify. However, last week, she received two checks, which were refund from wage garnishments, and another was most her federal tax refund.
“People should really be asking questions and call those numbers if you have the time,” Akilah said. “It doesn’t hurt to ask a tax professional. The money is out there. If anything, make sure that your information with the IRS is up to date.”
Experts are urging people to contact federal agencies and/or collections agencies if any federal money they are entitled to is not in their hands due to a government debt. Stimulus checks are mostly commonly being offset for those owing child support. In some states, stimulus checks are not protected by federal law from garnishment by creditors. More information can be found at fiscal.treasury.gov.