Personal Finance

12 million people are at risk of not getting their stimulus payments. Here's how that could be fixed

Key Points
  • About 12 million Americans are at risk of not receiving their stimulus checks.
  • The new estimate is based on Census data and the number of people who either don't file tax returns or receive federal government benefits.
  • States can play a part in helping to make sure people who are under the radar get the checks that are due them.
Image Source | Getty Images

Many Americans are at risk of not receiving their $1,200 stimulus checks.

Now, research estimates that as many as 12 million people could go without the payments due to them.

That's according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan research and policy institute. The center based its estimate on data from the Census Bureau.

Congress authorized sending stimulus checks to millions of Americans under the $2 trillion CARES Act. The payments include up to $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for married couples and $500 per child under 17.

More from Personal Finance:
Here's what could be in additional stimulus legislation
Dems, GOP spar over extension of extra $600 in unemployment
Fed holds rates near zero — here's what that means for your wallet

The money is targeted at low- to middle-income Americans. The payments begin phasing out at $75,000 in income for individuals, $112,500 for heads of household, and $150,000 for married couples.

The IRS has been sending the payments via direct deposit or mail, based on tax returns. To date, the government has delivered about 159 million checks.

However, the population of low-income individuals could be difficult to reach because many of these people typically either don't file tax returns or do not receive federal government benefits and thus are at risk of falling through the cracks.

To prevent that, the IRS has created a non-filer tool online to let those individuals and families affected submit their information to get their payments.

How to determine eligibility for coronavirus stimulus check
How to determine eligibility for coronavirus stimulus check

In order to get their payments this year, individuals and families must fill out the form by Oct. 15. Otherwise, they are eligible to receive the money by filing a tax return next year.

Still, millions are at risk of not finding out that information on time, according to the center.

"We think there are efforts, far beyond the IRS' outreach, that would increase the number of people in this population who would actually receive their payments," said Kris Cox, senior tax policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

What we know about who's vulnerable

Those who will automatically receive their payments from the IRS include those who filed taxes for either 2018 or 2019, as well as people who receive money from the federal government through Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Veterans Administration or Railroad Retirement benefits.

The 12 million people who are at risk include those who have not worked for a long period of time, low-income families with children and low-income adults who do not have children.

They can be broken into two groups.

That includes 9 million people who didn't file tax returns for 2018 or 2019 and who do not receive federal benefits, but do receive financial assistance through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid.

They are also "disproportionately people of color, because they are likelier to have lower incomes due to historical racism and ongoing bias and discrimination," according to the report.

Of the 9 million, 27% are Black and 19% are Latino, according to the report.

The remaining 3 million also didn't file tax returns, and do not receive support through SNAP or Medicaid.

How outreach can help fix the problem

Efforts from governors and other state officials can help get stimulus checks into these people's hands, the center found.

The SNAP and Medicaid programs can be used to contact the 9 million individuals and families about the actions they need to take to get their money.

Meanwhile, the remaining 3 million could be reached through public education efforts or other aid groups that may have contact with them.

Some advocates are pushing for the IRS to release data on the delivery of the stimulus checks by ZIP code, Cox noted, in order to better help target outreach efforts.

"There should be a concerted aggressive effort to get people to file before the Oct. 15 deadline, and then there should be some additional effort next year to pick up anybody who was still missed," Cox said.