White households got stimulus checks faster than Black families

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With Congress about to debate whether to send another round of relief payments to individuals, a study has found that the last batch of stimulus checks arrived at wealthier, White households more quickly than to those of Blacks and Hispanics.

Nearly seven in 10 adults said that they received their coronavirus economic stimulus payments, approved by Congress in March, as of late May.

Among Whites, 74 percent reported getting payments by then, compared to 69 percent who were Black and 64 percent who were Hispanic, according to a study from the Urban Institute released on Thursday.

Hispanic households were largely affected because U.S. citizens were barred from receiving payments if their spouses were undocumented immigrants, according to the data.

The disparities tracked along income lines, as well, according to the data, with nearly 78 percent of eligible adults above the federal poverty level reporting receiving their payment by late May, compared with 59 percent of people below the poverty level, according to the data.

Part of the lag was probably because some individuals with lower incomes aren’t required to file tax returns, so the Internal Revenue Service had to build a database from scratch and relied on individuals to proactively self-report their data.

The racial and income gap in who received a $1,200 stimulus payment within the first six weeks of the IRS sending the money raises questions for Congress as it gears up for negotiations about more economic aid. Lawmakers are considering sending a second wave of checks later this summer or autumn in response to a pandemic that has disproportionately affected communities of color and lower-income workers.

Dueling plans

Democrats are pushing for another $1,200 payment for adults earning as much as $75,000, or twice that for a couple, plus an additional $1,200 per child. They have also sought to expand the eligibility requirements, including citizens whose spouses are undocumented immigrants.

Republicans have said they want a more targeted approach, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has suggested the payments should only go to those making less than $40,000.

The IRS says that 159 million payments, worth more than $267 billion, were distributed by early June. There’s still about $30 billion left to be distributed. Some individuals who haven’t gotten the payments yet may have to wait until next tax season to file a claim with the IRS to get the money.

The study said the IRS could more quickly reach some of those individuals who aren’t required to file tax returns if they partner with state agencies that administer Medicaid or nutritional assistance benefits.

The report also said that the Treasury Department could make better use of prepaid debit cards, rather than paper checks or direct deposit, to get the money to people who do not have bank accounts. Additionally, the IRS required that individuals submit their bank account or address information about where to send the payments via online portals, which prevented people without internet access from entering their most recent information.

Bloomberg News