Millions of Immigrant Families Won’t Get Coronavirus Stimulus Checks, Experts Say

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Millions of immigrant households nationwide will not receive coronavirus relief money from the federal government, immigration legal experts say.

On Wednesday night, the Senate unanimously passed a $2 trillion economic rescue plan that will offer financial help to Americans across the country amid the global health pandemic. The checks – which can be as much as $1,200 per adult and $500 per child– are slated to be sent out sometime in early April.

But not everybody will get them.

According to the National Immigration Law Center— which dissected the 800-page bill— only immigrants with valid Social Security numbers and people who qualify as “resident aliens” will receive the checks.

“Resident aliens” are people who have green cards or people who can prove that they have been physically present in the United States long enough to establish “substantial presence,” as per U.S. tax law.

But just because a person has a Social Security number doesn’t mean they automatically qualify. Jackie Vimo, an economic justice policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center, said if the tax-filer’s spouse or child doesn’t have a Social Security number no one in the family will be able to claim the credit.

For example, if someone lives in a “mixed-status” household — meaning that if anyone in the family (tax filers and their children) uses an ITIN — an individual taxpayer identification number — rather than a Social Security number, the family does not qualify for the relief payment. (The only exception would be if one spouse has a Social Security number and at least one spouse served in the military in the last 2019 tax year.)

An ITIN is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service to ensure that people – including unauthorized immigrants – pay taxes even if they do not have a Social Security number, regardless of their immigration status.

ITIN filers collectively contribute an estimated $11.74 billion in state and local taxes each year, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. In 2015, ITIN filers paid $23.6 billion in total federal taxes.

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