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Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Judge Orders IRS to Issue Stimulus Checks Worth $100 million to Incarcerated Persons

In a recent order on 24th September by Phyllis Hamilton, a US District Court Judge certified incarcerated individuals nationally and imposed an injunction urging the Treasury Department and IRS to stop holding back stimulus checks based on the individual’s incarceration status. 

Judge Hamilton’s Order on Stimulus Checks

Judge Hamilton further ordered the government that it should cancel out previous stimulus check denials within a span of 30 days. According to the order, Hamilton said “within 45 days, defendants [IRS and Treasury] shall file a declaration confirming these steps have been implemented, including data regarding the number and amount of benefits that have been disbursed.”

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The order by the Judge will ensure that nearly 80,000 inmates are benefitted. The package when issued to incarcerated persons will amount to more than $100 million. 

The Treasury Department’s inspector’s report said that nearly 80,000 incarcerated persons were deprived of stimulus checks as of 4th May 2020. 

Yaman Salahi representing the Plaintiffs said that the order by Judge Hamilton will make sure that the incarcerated individuals who are in dire need of the stimulus checks provided by Congress will receive them. 

Stimulus Checks Case: When did it Start? 

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The case is a by-product of the CARES ACT. The CARES ACT allowed the IRS to issue economic impact payments (EIP) or stimulus checks to Americans.  When the IRS revised the ‘frequently asked questions’ section of the EIP on 6th May 2020, it mentioned that incarcerated individuals are not eligible for stimulus checks. A General Accounting office’s report said that the IRS tied up with the officials of federal and state prison to retrieve the stimulus checks sent to the incarcerated persons. This resulted in several state prisons intercepting payments made to incarcerated persons. 

Prisoners Deprived of Stimulus Checks by IRS: Expert Opinions

Some experts have questioned the basis for the IRS’s decision and have labeled it illegal. 

It is mention-worthy here that in 2009 when stimulus checks were issued, incarcerated persons were withheld from receiving the economic aid. Thus, it is clear that Congress having prior experience of excluding incarcerated people has willingly included them in the 2020 CARES ACT.

Sherrod Brown, a senator, said that the CARES ACT doesn’t give the IRS any authority to order the exclusion of the incarcerated people from the stimulus checks’ list. He further said that prisoners who are victims of racism as well as belong to financially wrecked families already lack resources. They are also prone to contracting the virus due to the negligence of the prison authorities. Incarcerated individuals are in more need of the stimulus checks, he added. 

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