Between April 10 and June 3, almost 160 million people received one-time economic stimulus payments from the IRS to help mitigate financial distress caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Urban Institute's Coronavirus Tracking Survey, a nationally representative survey of adults conducted in May and released on Thursday. Millions more will receive their payments now that they have filed their taxes this year.
Overall, the IRS got out most economic stimulus payments "rapidly," writes the Urban Institute, sending a huge number of payments in a fairly short amount of time. But there were plenty of issues: Many people reported not being able to access the IRS's website to update their financial information, some dead people received checks and a small number of payments went to incorrect or closed bank accounts.
Wrinkles like that are to be expected in such a large undertaking. However, some people have still not received a payment, according to the Urban Institute's report. And those who have not received their check yet are some of the nation's most vulnerable — arguably, the people who need the money the most.
Almost 70% of families reported receiving a check by mid-May, per the survey, but there were "significant disparities" by income, race and citizenship status, the Urban Institute found. Income disparities were especially stark: While over 77% of eligible adults with incomes between 100% and 600% of the federal poverty level (FPL) reported they received their checks, just under 59% of those with incomes below the FPL did.
It's likely that adults with incomes below the FPL, who do not typically file taxes, did not receive the check because the IRS did not have their bank account information or home address, the Urban Institute says.
The IRS created the Get My Payment portal for people to submit this information without filing a tax return, but many low-income people either did not know that that system was in place, could not access it or did not know that they were eligible for a check at all.
"Taking the extra step of applying through the IRS web portal required internet access," says the Urban Institute. "But 1 in 5 potentially eligible non-recipients who neither filed an income tax return nor received Social Security benefits reported having no internet access at home."
Just 45.4% of people living in poverty who did not receive a payment have bank accounts. The IRS tried to mitigate this by sending some stimulus payments in the form of prepaid debit cards, but the agency needs a recipient's address on file in order for them to receive a card. Others who did receive the cards reportedly thought they were junk mail and threw them away.
Hispanic and Black adults were also less likely to report receiving a check than White adults. Almost 74% of non-Hispanic White adults got a check, compared with around 69% of Black adults and 64% of Hispanic adults. In Hispanic families with non-citizens, just 54% of adults received a payment.
The IRS is still trying to get payments to those who are eligible and have not received one yet. Those who typically do not file a tax return can still submit their bank account information or address on the agency's site. And those who have not filed 2018 or 2019 taxes can do so at any time, or provide bank account information if they filed but did not receive a refund.