More than 2 million Californians may be leaving stimulus money on the table. Here’s how to do it

More than 2 million Californians may be leaving stimulus money on the table.  Here's how to do it

What should you do if you haven’t received your payouts? First, determine whether you’re eligible. If you are, you may be in the stimulus gap. For those who don’t normally file taxes, the IRS introduced a non-filers tool in April 2020. This allowed people to submit information to become eligible for stimulus payments. The tool was suspended in November 2020, and the California Policy Lab estimates about 8.1 million households had used it by then. Figure out if you’re in the stimulus gap

That means if you didn’t file taxes for that year, the government doesn’t know where to send your money. The Internal Revenue Service has been using information from 2019 tax returns to distribute stimulus payments.

There are several reasons why someone might not file taxes. For example, people whose incomes are lower than the IRS threshold aren’t required to file a return. Thresholds for single, married and head of household filers range from $12,000 to $24,000 a year, said Aparna Ramesh, research manager at the California Policy Lab. The California Policy Lab at UC Berkeley estimates that $5.7 billion in stimulus money could go unclaimed.

However, Under the American Rescue Plan Act, which is providing the third stimulus installment, “there’s no ‘marriage penalty’ or ‘family penalty’ denying citizens relief because they have immigrants or ITIN filers in their families,” Feldstein said. An ITIN, or individual taxpayer identification number, allows undocumented individuals to file their taxes without a Social Security number. It doesn’t allow them any federal benefits, but U.S. citizens in their families, such as dependent children, may qualify. In California, undocumented individuals are able to receive some economic assistance through the Golden State Stimulus signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in February. If you make less than $75,000 a year and have a Social Security number or ITIN, you can expect $600 from the state of California, Feldstein said. If you qualify for the California earned income tax credit, you can expect $1,200. The bill also provides a $600 payment to households enrolled in the CalWorks program, and $600 for recipients of SSI/SSP and the Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants. People in the U.S. without legal documentation are not eligible for federal support, though they pay more than $3 billion in California and local taxes annually, said Sasha Feldstein, economic justice policy manager at the California Immigrant Policy Center.

Some people who don’t normally file taxes are receiving stimulus payments. You are probably not in the gap but are still waiting for your second or third payment if you are part of safety net programs such as CalFresh, or you receive an earned income tax credit. But the California Policy Lab estimates that 25% of this group “did not automatically receive all payments for which they were eligible.” The California Policy Lab says you could fall into the stimulus gap for the following reasons:

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