comscore Kokua Line: Criminal record shouldn’t block stimulus pay; eligible recipients must apply on IRS website by Oct. 15 | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaii News | Kokua Line

Kokua Line: Criminal record shouldn’t block stimulus pay; eligible recipients must apply on IRS website by Oct. 15

Question: I never got the $1,200 stimulus and my friends did. One guy said I didn’t get it because I have a record. Is that right? I was convicted, but I haven’t been in jail for a long time. I’ve worked for the past two years, all minimum-wage stuff.

Answer: No. “Arrest and/or criminal records do not on their own exclude anyone from the Economic Impact Payment. Of all the new recovery programs included in the CARES Act, EIP, often referred to as the ‘stimulus check,’ is intended to reach the most people,” according to the National Employment Law Project’s Fact Sheet “Radical Inequality, Records, and Recovery,” 808ne.ws/nelp, published Aug. 5.

EIP-eligibility weighs income and other factors, but not work history or arrest and conviction records. “Additionally, nothing in the CARES Act disqualifies a person currently incarcerated from being eligible for the EIP,” it says.

The IRS demurs on that last point, saying on its website that an incarcerated individual “likely won’t qualify” for the EIP and any such payment “should” be returned — but the verbiage isn’t definitive and doesn’t apply to you anyway.

Months after most eligible people received their stimulus payments, Kokua Line continues to receive calls from people wondering why they never got any money. Most of these callers didn’t realize they weren’t eligible — either they made too much money, were claimed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return, or lacked a valid Social Security number (a category that includes undocumented workers, who don’t get the EIP).

However, we’ve also heard from people who are eligible but were hard for the IRS to find because they made so little money they weren’t required to file taxes in 2018 or 2019 and weren’t paid automatically as members of a federal program such as Social Security. We suspect that you fall into this category. You still have time to claim the EIP, but you must register on the IRS website by Oct. 15. Go to irs.gov and click on the bar that says “Non-filers: Enter Payment Info Here.” Review the requirements and have your identifying documents at hand before clicking on the blue bar that says “enter your information.”

“If you don’t usually file a tax return and you have not received your Economic Impact Payment yet, the IRS may not have enough information to determine your eligibility,” the agency explains, which is why anyone in that situation should submit their information using the nonfilers tool.

To be clear, these instructions also apply to federal beneficiaries who didn’t receive the EIP automatically — as long as they haven’t filed and are not planning to file a 2019 tax return, and are not disqualified due to high income or some other factor. Most people receiving Social Security retirement, disability or survivor benefits; Supplemental Security Income; Veterans Affairs Compensation and Pension benefits; or Railroad Retirement benefits did receive the EIP as promised, but some eligible recipients obviously fell through the cracks. The IRS has updated its website, telling them to use the nonfiler tool by Oct. 15 too.

The payment is $1,200 for individuals with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 or $2,400 for couples filing jointly with AGI up to $150,000. It’s reduced above those income levels and phases out completely for individuals with AGI above $99,000 and couples above $198,000.

Q: Are Census takers working on weekends?

A: Yes, Census takers work seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., including holidays, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Enumerators, commonly known as Census takers, will be working Monday, which is Labor Day.

“We ask the public to please cooperate if a Census taker visits them. It’s important. By answering a few questions, they’ll help shape the future of their community for the next 10 years. There’s still time to self-respond to the 2020 Census. Please visit 2020census.gov, or call 844-330-2020 for English or 844-468-2020 for Spanish, or mail back the completed paper questionnaire. Census takers will have a valid ID badge with their photograph, a U.S. Department of Commerce watermark, and an expiration date. Census takers may also carry Census Bureau bags and other equipment with the Census Bureau logo. Census takers will never ask for Social Security numbers, banking information, political affiliation, or citizenship status,” the agency says.

Rental property survey

Since the pandemic began, Kokua Line has heard from plenty of “mom and pop” landlords who fear losing their properties because their unemployed tenants can’t keep up with the rent, which means they can’t keep up with the mortgage and property taxes. The Economic Research Organization at the University of Hawaii wants to hear from these folks, as well as from other property managers and landlords, in surveys that gauge the pandemic’s effects on Hawaii’s rental housing. Monthly surveys will collect data on the number of rental households struggling to pay rent and the number of rental properties at risk of being lost to sale or conversion. For more information and a link to the inaugural survey, go to 808ne.ws/survey.


Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@staradvertiser.com.


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