Millions of Americans are dealing with the financial fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, including making sure they get their stimulus checks.
Here are answers to some of the top questions our reporters and producers have received from viewers writing in to our new email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: My husband owes back child support. I understand that he may only get a partial stimulus check. However, since Washington is a community property state and, in the past, the IRS has seized MY tax refunds for HIS child support debt, does this also mean that they'll seize my stimulus check? We haven't received any letters, nor any stimulus yet. – Dawn
A: The IRS didn't give a stimulus to people who are married to those who owe back child support. Those people typically file as "injured spouses,” which is a tax term when someone's refund covers the debt of their spouse or ex-spouse.
The IRS says it's working to resolve this mistake, because ultimately, only the payment of the person who owes past-due child support should be impacted. The IRS says it will now give half of the total relief payment to those spouses who qualify under "injured spouse relief."
Some experts say it could take months to fix, although the IRS has said that roughly 95% of all relief will go out in the next four to six weeks.
Q: I watch you every day. Unfortunately, I have not received a stimulus check, and I’d like to know if you have any updates. I am eligible for a $1,200 payment. I'm confused and very frustrated. – Cheryl
A: If you’re having trouble tracking your stimulus check using the IRS’ Get My Payment tool, here’s a few hacks you could try to get through:
- Try using a different browser. One user in Wisconsin found Google Chrome didn’t work, but Internet Explorer did.
- Try using all caps. Some people have found using all caps for your address worked, because often that's the way it is on your IRS tax forms.
- Check the tool at a different time of day. The IRS says it only updated the tool once a day. You may also be locked out. The IRS says if you enter wrong info multiple times, you could be locked out for 24 hours.
Q: I have heard that I may not get a stimulus check because I owe child support. Is that true? – Ray.
A: It is true. Child support can be seized but other consumer debt, like medical debt, cannot, at least in the state of Washington. That's because Governor Jay Inslee signed a proclamation forbidding creditors to take your money.
Q: We always receive the same message "Payment Status Not Available" and are referred to several reasons why though none are true for us. – Jeanie
A: The IRS says this shows up if you don't qualify for a payment, you didn't file a tax return in 2018 or 2019, you filed through another part of their site for non-filers or you get social security or railroad retirement.
However, if none of those reasons are true for you, we've found that message can also show up if what you type isn't exactly the same with what the IRS has on your tax return. For example, one of our reporters had to capitalize the name of their road on their address to get the tool to work.
Q: I have filed all past years of taxes through Turbo Tax. Is there something I need to do to get the check to release? – Kristin
A: The short answer is no. Some companies have put together tools to help people navigate their payments and some of those tools show options for paid tax services. Also, note that if you had past returns come to you via a Turbo Tax Visa debit card, your payment could go there.
Q: The company that I worked for it laid me off on March 26th because of COVID-19 so when I applied for unemployment benefits, they sent me an email that I’m not eligible for the benefits because I didn’t work at least 680 hours in 2019. What can I do? – Amir
A: If you first applied before April 18, the short answer is to reapply now, because that’s when the state rolled out additional benefits under the CARES Act.
Before then, no one received the federal benefits in Washington, because the state hadn't been able to take in applications. It took a while for the state to get federal guidance and update its website.
People who didn't previously qualify for regular unemployment now do, including independent contractors and those who worked fewer than 680 hours over the previous year. Everyone on unemployment will also get $600 more a week as well.
Q: Do people on social security or disability benefits get these checks, because a lot of us don't pay taxes on them. – Doug
A: Yes. Unless someone is claiming you as a dependent, the IRS says you should get a check either deposited directly into your bank account or by regular mail.
Q: I read that if you are having social security checks directly deposited into your accounts that there is nothing more than we have to do. Can you confirm? – Forrest
A: Yes, we can confirm that. If you have direct deposit with the IRS, you do not have to do anything. If you don't, you can give the IRS your direct deposit information through an online tool and track when your stimulus will hit your bank account.
Q: We have a 22-year-old college student that worked last summer and paid over $1,400 in taxes, but we claim her as a dependent. Will we get $500, or will she get $1,200? I’m hearing she may get nothing as she falls between the cracks. – Susan
A: Unfortunately, there are such cracks in the stimulus. The CARES Act provides parents $500 per child as defined by the Child Tax Credit. In general, that means only dependents under the age of 17 qualify.
However, a person who is claimed as a dependent can't get a stimulus payment for themselves. So many of the country's roughly 20 million college students who are claimed as a dependent won't see a check and neither will their parents.
So, no money is provided for dependents who are older than 16 years old and these dependents are unable to claim a stimulus payment for themselves.
Q: I understand that stimulus monies will require repayment. Anything I can find is very vague. Can you address this? – Nancy
A: You don't have to pay back your stimulus. There have been fake stories saying there's a catch and it will show up on your next tax return. Simply put, not true.
Do you have a question or concern about money during the coronavirus pandemic? Email us at email@example.com.