The most recent relief package included something I pushed hard for – a provision to put money directly in the pockets of all middle class and low-income Americans. This week, millions of Ohioans will have started seeing their stimulus checks direct deposited into their bank accounts.
We wanted to make the process as simple and painless as possible for everyone who qualifies to get these checks. That’s why we specifically included language to ensure that people on Social Security, who don’t normally file a tax return, would still get their checks automatically.
But the IRS initially ignored that part of the law – they declared that Social Security beneficiaries and others who don’t normally file a tax return would have to do so this year to get their checks, and created a lot of confusion for seniors.
Most people on Social Security don’t typically file a tax return. Many recipients are elderly or have health conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, and they don’t always have good internet access. Requiring them to file would have meant serious delays in getting them their checks.
When this decision came out, I immediately led a group of 42 senators in writing to the IRS and demanding that they reverse their initial decision – and we got results. Earlier this month, the IRS announced that Social Security recipients will not have to file a tax return to receive their stimulus checks.
Just this week, we saw another victory when the IRS announced that people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits will also not have to file a return either. Now that this is clarified, everyone who is on Social Security or SSI can expect to receive their stimulus checks automatically soon.
This is great news – but we have more work to do.
Right now, our veterans who receive VA benefits will still need to file a tax return. These folks face the same hurdles as many who receive Social Security and SSI benefits. That’s why I led my colleagues in writing to the IRS again, urging them to fix this issue, too.
There’s no reason that Ohioans should have to jump through bureaucratic hoops filing a tax return when the IRS could send a check automatically using information that is already on file with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
We need to ensure that this process is as easy as possible so that all who qualify can get their stimulus checks quickly.
Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) represents the state in the U.S. Senate.