ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The vast majority of Michigan residents are eligible for the stimulus checks made available by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law on March 27. Individuals earning less than $75,000, or married and filing jointly earning less than $150,000, are likely eligible for full payments of $1,200 per adult plus $500 per child under the age of 17. Heads of household making less than $112,500 also are eligible for full stimulus payments.
For most people, the stimulus checks will be directly deposited into the bank account provided on their most recent tax returns or delivered via the Social Security system, starting this month. But people who don’t file taxes, don’t have a bank account, or move frequently and don’t have a stable address where the check can be mailed face barriers to receiving their stimulus checks.
The 2020 Coronavirus Stimulus Payment website — developed by Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan in partnership with Detroit-based nonprofit design firm Civilla — walks people through a step-by-step process to ensure they’ve provided the IRS with the information necessary to receive their stimulus checks.
The website has information on how to open a safe and affordable bank account, how to file a simple tax return for free, and how to provide the IRS with a current address (although it still could take up to five months to receive a stimulus check by mail).
“While eligibility for these funds is nearly universal, we are concerned about administrative procedures that could end up denying or delaying stimulus checks to the most vulnerable people,” said H. Luke Shaefer, director of Poverty Solutions and the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy at U-M. “Relief measures must include provisions to ensure the timely delivery of aid to the people who need it most.”
Poverty Solutions, a university-wide initiative that aims to prevent and alleviate poverty through action-based research, analyzed national data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and found the unbanked, people who don’t file taxes, and recent movers are disproportionately concentrated among the poor.
Analysis by Poverty Solutions finds that among those in deep poverty — earning less than half the poverty line — 57% are at risk of a delayed or missing stimulus payment. This is true for 52% of all poor families, compared to just 20% of those above the poverty line. Among households reporting some kind of hardship such as an inability to pay for housing or utilities, no health insurance, or food insecurity, 36% are at risk of a delayed or missing payment compared to just 16% of households that are able to make ends meet.
“It is critical that Michigan residents know how to access the payments they’re eligible for. We want people to turn to this website as a reliable source of information on the COVID-19 stimulus payments,” said Lena Selzer, Design Director at Civilla, which uses human-centered design to change how public-serving institutions work.