Webinar: CARES Economic Impact Payment (EIP)

Many people, who are eligible to receive the CARES Economic Impact Payment (EIP), do not typically file tax returns and have questions about how they can receive their EIPs.

CARES Economic Impact Payment (EIP)

Description of Webinar:

Many people, who are eligible to receive the CARES Economic Impact Payment (EIP), may not typically file tax returns and may have questions about how they can receive their EIPs. These individuals are considered “non-filers” by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and for those who do not receive federal government benefits, they will not automatically obtain their EIP checks. This webinar will walk non-filers through the IRS portal so they can register, provide information, and if eligible, receive their EIPs. The panelists also navigate issues that non-filers may want to consider before entering information through the IRS non-filer portal or to consider if the non-filers should file a 2018 or 2019 tax return.

This webinar is intended to provide information only and does not provide legal advice. Information is provided as to where individuals can seek individualized tax consultation or advice.


Shahin Rahimi was born in Iran and came to the United States at age 11 in 1987. His family settled for the first few years in the Bay Area and they eventually moved to San Diego in 1990. He graduated from Escondido High School and received his Political Science degree from UC San Diego. After graduating from California Western School of Law in 2002, he worked in securities litigation for a few years before landing his dream job at Legal Aid Society of San Diego in 2007.  He has been the Supervising Attorney of the Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic since 2007.

Kate Lang is a senior staff attorney on Justice in Aging’s Income Team. Kate works in the Washington, DC office and works on Social Security and Supplemental Security Income-related issues. She was formerly staff attorney at the Legal Aid Bureauworks in Riverdale, MD where she was an advocate for low-income older adults and persons with disabilities. In her previous positions, Kate worked as an attorney at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and Bread for the City Legal Clinic in Washington, DC as well as at Doherty, Cella, Keane and Associates, LLP. She has also served as a staff attorney for Legal Services of Northern California. She received her B.A. from Oberlin College and her J.D. from Fordham University School of Law. She also has a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in teaching English to speakers of other languages.

Leigh Ferrin is the Director of Litigation and Pro Bono at the Public Law Center. Leigh works with the attorneys, staff and volunteers in all seven of PLC’s units to ensure that services are provided efficiently and effectively. She oversees impact advocacy and litigation, and recruits volunteers to participate in PLC’s efforts to serve its clients. Prior to her current position, Leigh was the Directing Attorney of the Consumer Law Unit at PLC, where she supervised consumer cases including debt collection, bankruptcy, student loans, home equity scams and identity theft. After graduating from Pomona College in 2002 with a B.A. in Psychology, Leigh then received her J.D. in 2008 from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles.

Lili Vo Graham is Litigation Counsel of the Civil Rights Practice Group at Disability Rights California (DRC). She works on systemic and impact cases to provide better access for Californians with disabilities.  During this pandemic, she is focused on the housing-needs of her clients, including individuals experiencing homelessness. This webinar was born from the requests by her homeless clients, who have been unable to obtain their EIP checks during this crisis, to receive more information. Prior to her position at DRC, Lili was the Director of Litigation at Community Legal Aid SoCal and prior to that Directing Attorney of the Housing and Homelessness Prevention Unit at Public Law Center. 

Recording of Webinar

Webinar Materials

PowerPoint Presentation (pdf)

Frequently Asked Questions

What does “CARES Act” stand for?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. It is the set of laws passed by Congress in late March 2020 and includes a law that authorizes the economic impact payments (EIPs), AKA stimulus checks, which are one-time payments to offer economic assistance from the federal government.

Will there be more EIPs in the future?

As of now, the federal government has not confirmed whether there will be additional EIPs AKA stimulus checks going out. However, the current EIPs can be claimed throughout 2020 and even on your 2020 tax return that you file in 2021, if you do not claim it this year.

Who is eligible to receive an economic impact payment?

Anyone who meets these requirements:

  • U.S. citizen or resident alien
  • Has a valid Social Security number (SSN)
  • Last year, had an adjusted gross income (AGI) below
    • $75,000 for individual
    • $112,500 for head of household
    • $150,000 for married couple filing jointly

[NOTE - if you were claimed as someone else’s dependent on their taxes last year, you are not eligible for a stimulus check]

Is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) the same as a valid Social Security Number for purposes of obtaining an EIP?

NO. An ITIN is an individual taxpayer number that the IRS issues to people without social security numbers for the sole purpose of filing their taxes. IMPORTANT - if your last tax return included a single person with an ITIN number (spouse, child, dependent parent, etc.), no one on that tax return will be eligible for an EIP.

Is there a minimum income amount?


Who is NOT eligible?

Anyone who does not meet either the income or the immigration status requirements stated above, or does not have a valid SSN, or was included as a dependent on someone else’s 2019 taxes, or had at least one person on their tax return last year who had an ITIN number, or is a high earner.

High-income earners include those with adjusted gross income (AGI) above:

  • $99,000 for individual
  • $136,500 for head of household
  • $198,000 for married couple filing jointly

If I am eligible, how much money will I receive?

  • $1,200 for individual
  • $2,400 for married couples
  • Additional $500 per child under age 17
    • Example: mother + 2 children under 17 = $2,200
  • Phased out for high-earners

If I am eligible, how will I receive my stimulus check?

Depending on the information the IRS has for you, and when you last filed a tax return, you will receive your payment either by direct deposit, or by a check in the mail.

  • If you already filed for 2018 or 2019, and received your refund by direct deposit, you should receive your payment automatically, through direct deposit.
  • If you have not and will not file for 2018 and 2019, then you need to update your information on the IRS “non-filer” portal so the IRS knows where and how to send your check (by direct deposit or mail).
  • If you have filed for 2018 but not yet for 2019, and are required to file, you will either get your check by mail or direct deposit, depending on whether you received a refund on your 2018 return. If you want to update your information, you can do so via the “filer’s” portal.

Non-Filers Portal

Filer’s Portal

If I did not file taxes in either 2018 or 2019, am I still eligible?

Yes, so long as you meet the eligibility requirements. But you still need to go onto the IRS economic impact payment website to explain that you are eligible, and provide information on how you want to receive your check.

Non-Filers Portal

NOTE - look to question “If I receive federal benefits, how will I receive my stimulus check?” for individuals who receive federal benefits.

Should I use the “non-filer” portal?

Do NOT use if:

  • Already filed 2019 return
  • Already received payment based on 2018 or 2019 return, even if less than full amount
  • Claimed as dependent on someone else’s 2019 tax return
  • Married but not filing with spouse
  • Not U.S. citizen or permanent resident

Which Payments Will Be Mailed?

  • If you don’t have a bank account
  • If you filed your return for 2018 or 2019, and owed taxes, or your refund was not sent by direct deposit, or if bank account where refund was sent is closed

NOTE - If you have already filed your 2018 or 2019 taxes but want to update your bank or address information, you can do so here on the “filer” portal.

How long will it take to mail out all of the paper checks?

The IRS has indicated that it could take as long as September to get all of the checks out.

If I’m not filing a 2019 return, and am not required to, how can I get my return electronically?

You can provide your information online on the IRS “non-filer” portal.

Non-Filers Portal

Are the non-filer and filer portals in English and Spanish?


Do I need an email account to use the non-filer and filer portals?

YES, you need an email account and internet to access the non-filer and filer portal. You should also have bank account and address information ready.

How can I set up a bank account so I can receive my check through direct deposit?

  • You can go to a local bank, which usually requires 2 forms of identification to open a bank account (1 can be a Driver’s License)
  • You can also open a bank account online (via JoinBankOn.org)

Is there a field on the “non-filer” portal to receive my check by Direct Express Card?


If I receive government benefits, will they be reduced or otherwise impacted?

NO. Federal means-tested benefits will not be affected, meaning the payment will not be counted as income, and will be not counted as a resource, so long as you spend it within 12 months. However, you should report that you received the payment to the office that handles the benefit. Federally means-tested benefits include Medi-Cal, CalFresh (SNAP), SSI, Subsidized housing, and CalWorks (TANF).

Receipt of federal benefits will not make you ineligible for the stimulus check.

At this point, it is uncertain whether receipt of county and local general relief will be impacted.

Will the stimulus check effect my unemployment insurance?

No, the stimulus check will not be counted as income for unemployment benefits. It will be counted as a tax refund, so you do not need to report it to the unemployment agency.

If I receive federal benefits, how will I receive my stimulus check?

Automatically, in the same manner that you receive your benefits – either by check in the mail or automatically into an account.

What if I have a representative payee?

The payment will be sent to them automatically like the payments are usually sent, into the account where the representative receives the benefits. It will be up to the payee to distribute the benefits to the beneficiary, and work with them about how they want to spend the payment.

What if I live in a nursing facility or group home?

Refer to the above section regarding ways to receive payment if receiving benefits. NOTE – the payment SHOULD NOT be taken by the facility you live in, it is for the resident and DOES NOT count as an income or resource.

What about if I live in a Foster Home/Transitional Age Program?

If you have been claimed as a dependent, you will not be eligible for an EIP. If you were not claimed as a dependent, but you meet the other requirements, then you should access the “non-filer” portal on the IRS website to update your information, or the “filer” portal if you filed taxes for 2018 or 2019.

When will payments be sent?

  • April 11-15 if you filed in 2018 or 2019 and received a refund electronically (automatically)
  • April 29 for recipients of SS retirement, survivors or disability insurance beneficiaries; Railroad Retirement Board beneficiaries (automatically)
  • May 13 for SSI recipients (automatically), but does not include payments to children
  • Early May for Veterans Administration benefits (automatically), but does not include payments to children

NOTE – The IRS is prioritizing low income households and has indicated that the first checks are being mailed out to the households with the lowest incomes.

How can I check on the status of my payment?

If you filed in 2018 or 2019, you can check the status of your payment with the “Get My Payment” portal online for filers.

The IRS has also said that it will mail out letters to individuals within 15 days after sending the check. The letter will include a statement about how much was sent, how the money was sent, and a number to call if you have not received it.

What if I didn’t receive a payment, received too little or too much?

You should receive a letter from the IRS 15 days after receiving your payment. If you receive a letter but have not received a payment, call the number on letter. If your payment was too little, or you never received a payment or a letter, then you may need to wait until next year to file tax return 2020 and can claim a credit then.

If you received too much, the IRS is requesting that you return the excess payment to them.

Once I receive my payment, how do I protect it from seizure if I have debts?

The Governor of California issued Executive Order, N-57-20, which states that:

  • All financial assistance (whether from the federal, state or local government) made available as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is exempt from seizure, EXCEPT for child support, spousal support or family support; and
  • If money is seized, it must be returned promptly, without any further action by the recipient.

Also, the CARES Act protects EIPs from seizure for federal debts such as student loans, IRS debts, benefit overpayments, etc.

The California Franchise Tax Board has also temporarily ceased its collection of state debt such as unpaid vehicle tickets, court debt, or state tax debt.

Because the Executive Order requires banks to be able to trace the financial assistance in order to protect it, it is still possible that payments will be seized.

What do I do if my payment is improperly seized?

You should contact your bank and the creditor that seized the funds immediately to request that funds be returned. You should not have to take any further action such as going to court.

Is it better to file my 2018 or 2019 taxes first?

If you are eligible for the payment, it is better to file your 2019 taxes if you haven’t filed either because the IRS is prioritizing processing 2019 returns. It is possible that if you only file 2018, it will take longer to get your payment.

NOTE – You should also try and file electronically because the IRS is not processing 2019 paper returns at this point.

What if I owe a tax filing from 2016? Should I file 2018/2019 even if not required to file tax return?

It is your decision but it is important to note that you have three years to claim your refund, so if you do not file within the three years, you lose the ability to count the refund from that tax year towards the debt you owe in taxes. Also, your EIP cannot be reduced based on debt you owe in taxes, so filing 2019 would benefit you as you would, if eligible, receive the stimulus check, but without having it reduced to pay down your tax debt.

It is highly recommended to seek professional assistance in filing any back taxes. Before filing your taxes, you can also seek assistance through the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service by calling their toll-free number at (1-877-777-4778).

How do I know if I need to file taxes? Where can I go to get assistance for free tax filing?

The IRS has resources on their website to help you determine if you need to file taxes.

There are also free online and community resources to help you file your taxes.

  • IRS VITA Locator to find VITA locations that are helping to prepare returns remotely.
  • Get Your Refund for online tax filing site with volunteers providing assistance remotely, run in partnership with VITA. 
  • IRS also has a Free File online resource.

Should I use a check cashing company if I don’t have a bank account?

No, you should not use a cash checking company because they often charge fees to cash checks. Some banks are cashing stimulus checks for non-customers without charging fees. Be sure to call or ask in person before you let anyone cash your check to confirm that they won’t charge any fees.

Do I have to pay anyone to get my EIP or will the IRS contact me by phone to verify my information for the EIP?

NO. The IRS will not contact you to verify personal and/or banking information and you do not need to pay anyone to receive the check. They are using the information they already have from you, either from your 2018/2019 taxes, from the information you have provided on their website, or from other federal agencies like SSA.

If you believe you have been the victim of a scam call, report it to the Federal Trade Commission, at ftc.gov/complaint, or to your local low-income tax payer clinic.

Is there a deadline?

EIPs will be distributed throughout 2020. Even if you don’t receive a payment in 2020 but you were eligible to receive it, it can be claimed on your tax return for 2020 when filing by April 15, 2021.

If you have further questions, contact any of the below organizations:

  • Legal Aid Society of San Diego, CA: 1-877-534-2524
  • Public Law Center, Orange County, CA at: 714-541-1010 ext. 366
  • Disability Rights California, CA: 1-800-776-5746
  • Justice in Aging at: info@justiceinaging.org

To learn more read DRC’s self-advocacy publications


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