From Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity
by Kalena Thomhave
When I first spoke with Barry Samuel of Detroit, he thought he wouldn’t be getting his $1,200 stimulus check—formally called the Economic Impact Payment—that the federal government is sending out as part of a $2.2 trillion legislative package of pandemic relief.
Samuel could really use it. He’s currently living at a shelter, completing a program that should help him find stable housing. The payments, meant to cushion people during the greatest financial crisis in recent history as well as stimulate the economy, are ideal for someone like Samuel. He needs the help—and he’d spend the check.
The problem for Samuel was the way the government has chosen to issue stimulus checks. Like many ways people experience government bureaucracy, the process is pretty simple and streamlined if you have money and ridden with obstacles if you don’t. By attaching the payments to the Internal Revenue Service, the federal government can make direct deposits for approximately half of the population. The rest must rely on paper checks, sent to addresses linked to a person’s 2018 or 2019 tax return.
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