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How to make sure you actually get your coronavirus stimulus check

Here's a breakdown of what you may need to do to get your money.

ATLANTA — The House passed the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus emergency relief bill on Friday, and President Trump signed it into law - meaning  Americans will be entitled to getting a check soon from the government.

It ranges a bit, but the standard relief payment will be $1,200. You get additional money if you have children, and less if you make more than $75,000.

Actually receiving that payment though could be a more involved process for some people - particularly people who may be most in need of it. The government doesn't exactly just send people out with money to find you - for those without readily available addresses, bank accounts and tax record, it's easy to get overlooked by the bureaucracy.

RELATED: Will you get a stimulus check if you receive Social Security or disability, or didn’t file a tax return?

But it's important to remember - everyone is entitled to their cut. 

"According to what I've read, everybody that has a social security number, a valid social security number, is entitled to the stimulus payment subject to the income limitations," Temple University professor Steve Balsam told 11Alive.

Here's a breakdown of what you may need to do to get your money:

  • Have you filed your taxes for last year or this year? Did you receive your tax refund via direct deposit? Congratulations, if this describes you, it's safe to assume you'll be at the front of the line.

Balsam, who runs the Temple's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, explained to 11Alive that, as the IRS handles distributing the checks, they can be expected to turn first to the easiest way they've done it before - sending the money electronically to accounts that filed and used direct deposit during the last two tax cycles. 

RELATED: Stimulus check calculator: See how much you'll likely be getting

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the government wants to start distributing payments in as soon as three weeks.

  • Have you filed your taxes for last year or this year? Did you receive your refund via mail? It will likely take a bit longer, possibly as long as a month or two, for you to get your check.

Balsam explains: "The people who did file their returns but didn't elect for a direct deposit or direct debit - and you know we do have clients that don't - they will get paper checks, and that could take a month or two months. It's a lot slower."

  • Can you sign up for direct deposit now to get your coronavirus stimulus money sooner? This is not clear. The IRS has clearly anticipated the question, because right now they have an alert on their direct deposit informational site addressing it. All it says right now, though, is: "Stimulus payment checks: No information available yet, no sign-up needed. Instead of calling, please check the coronavirus page for updates."
  • Have you not filed taxes recently? This is likely to delay your payment, according to the IRS, but not stop you from getting it.

The IRS website says this: "Those without 2018 tax filings on record could potentially affect mailings of stimulus checks."

Balsam told 11Alive what that likely means is that once the IRS exhausts its own records for people - which, basically, extend to everyone who's filed their taxes - they are likely to attempt to use information from the Social Security Administration to reach everyone else.

"People who didn't file because, let's say, they didn't have enough income - from what I've read the IRS will contact, if they don't have an address for you ... the Social Security Administration and they will kind of merge their records, see who they've missed, and they will mail a check to your last known address."

  • Can you go back and file taxes now? You can. The IRS "encourages anyone with a tax filing obligation who hasn't filed a tax return for 2018 or a previous year to act now."

TurboTax has a helpful guide on filing back tax returns. If you do that, it's likely to help you get your money from the stimulus program sooner.

  • What if it turns out you owe the IRS money? Will they deduct that from the $1,200 the government is sending you? It doesn't appear they will do that.

Balsam put it this way: "According to what I've read, and it was pretty clear, the IRS is not going to deduct - they're not going to keep any of it. If you're supposed to get $1,200, you're going to get $1,200 regardless of what you owe."

  • What if you haven't filed taxes and don't have an accurate address on file with the Social Security Administration? This makes things pretty tricky - but understand, you're still entitled to your share of the money.

People who have experienced homelessness,  or have been living in between homes, or who are just generally off the grid are no less entitled to the money than anyone else, but they will likely need to be more proactive about getting onto the government's radar to get it.

"A lot of these volunteer (tax help) sites, if they're not physically open, they do have somebody manning a phone line, things like that - you can call up, you can send an email, you can get some advice, maybe some help in actually preparing that return," Balsam said. "If you don't have to prepare a return or if you're homeless, you can probably find some social service agency to help you apply for that check - because again, you're homeless but you have a social security number, you're entitled to the check."

"Know what you're entitled to and ask for help," he added.

Here are some resources that may help:

For tax returns: The Atlanta United Way runs a VITA program providing tax assistance to low-income individuals and families. They can be contacted via email at info@unitedwayatlanta.org and their phone number is 404-527-7200.

For social security address changes: You can try contacting the Atlanta regional Social Security Administration office at 1-800-772-1213 (line active only from 7 a.m.-7 p.m.) or visit the Social Security Administration change of address website to set up an online account and update the best place where you could be sent the check.

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information.


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