Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support our critical reporting on the coronavirus by purchasing a digital subscription or donating directly to the newsroom.
More than 400,000 Maine residents have already received economic impact payments from the federal government, according to data released jointly by the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service on Friday.
Direct payments were part of the $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill that passed in late March. In most cases, U.S. citizens with an annual income of less than $75,000 per year receive $1,200, with an additional $500 per dependent child. Individuals with an income of up to $99,000 receive a smaller payment, while married households that file taxes jointly will receive some benefit if their combined income is less than $198,000.
The IRS anticipates that just over half of Americans will receive checks at some point, according to a memo from the House Ways and Means Committee. In Maine, that proportion is expected to be slightly larger because the state’s median income is lower than average.
As of April 17, a total of 400,919 Mainers received stimulus checks, according to federal data, amounting to more than $722 million in total funds. Nationally, 88 million Americans have received $158 billion in direct stimulus money. Payments so far were made exclusively through direct deposit to residents whose bank information was on file with the IRS.
Plenty more Mainers will get stimulus checks automatically, though some have to sign up. Either way, it might take a while. Most of the stimulus money will be sent out automatically. Anyone who filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019 will receive the payments, as will individuals who receive benefits through a social security program or through veterans affairs.
But citizens who did not file taxes in the past two years and do not fit into any of those categories will need to register with the IRS to receive stimulus checks. Additionally, Maine residents who are veterans affairs beneficiaries or social security recipients and have dependent children need to register in order to receive their additional $500 payment by May 5. Both groups can sign up on the IRS website.
For people without bank information on file with the IRS, it might take a few months before a check shows up. That’s because printing and mailing millions of checks is a laborious process. The IRS expects to start mailing checks in the next few weeks, beginning with lowest-income households, but the process could take 20 weeks, according to a congressional memo.
Not everybody will get a stimulus check. Earners who make more than the thresholds specified in the stimulus bill won’t receive payments, and a few other categories of people are left out too. Dependent children over the age of 16, including many current high school and college students as well as recent graduates, are not eligible for stimulus checks at this time.
U.S. citizens who are married to immigrants and filed taxes jointly are not eligible for checks either, the Los Angeles Times found. Green card holders are eligible for the checks, but other immigrants are not.
Watch: State labor commissioner speaks to unemployed Mainers