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Receiving Government Benefits? Here’s What to Know About Your Stimulus Payment

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Updated: | Originally published:

Millions of Americans have begun receiving stimulus payments from the U.S. government through the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion dollar stimulus package passed by Congress to prop up the country’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic. Payments of up to $1,200 will be sent to every American who has a Social Security number, isn’t listed as a dependent and meets certain financial criteria. An additional $500 will be sent for every child under the age of 17. This information will be calculated via people’s 2019 or 2018 tax returns.

Most people should receive their payments automatically — the IRS will use the direct deposit information or mailing address on your 2018 or 2019 tax returns to send you a stimulus payment. “The [Internal Revenue Service] already has their information on file and will automatically send payments to these individuals,” says Erica York, an economist at the nonprofit Tax Foundation, via email.

That’s also true of people who receive Social Security, Railroad Retirement or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), who will automatically receive stimulus payments even if they don’t typically file tax returns. Their automatic payments should begin arriving the week of April 27, the IRS said on April 24.

Recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as well as veterans and their beneficiaries who receive Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefit payments from the Department of Veterans Affairs will also receive their payments automatically. The IRS said on April 24 that SSI and veterans’ benefit recipients “should receive their automatic payments by mid-May.”

Read more: The IRS is sending stimulus payments to millions of Americans this week. Here’s how to get yours faster

How will those benefit recipients receive their payment? The government will use the same information it uses to normally deliver benefits, David Hasen, a professor at the University of Florida Law School who specializes in federal income tax law, tells TIME in an email. For people on Social Security, Railroad Retirement or SSDI, the IRS will use the information provided on Form SSA-1099 and Form RRB-1099 to send payments.

“Recipients will generally receive the automatic $1,200 payments by direct deposit, Direct Express debit card or by paper check, just as they would normally receive their benefits,” the IRS said in an April 20 statement. (The Social Security Administration also released this extensive guide on how people on government benefits will get their payments.)

However, some people receiving government benefits may not receive the maximum amount they qualify for if they missed the deadline to register their children.

If you receive Social Security or railroad retirement benefits and don’t typically file tax returns but are eligible for the extra $500 per qualifying child, you had until April 22 to register the child on the IRS’s online portal: “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here.” Recipients of SSI or veterans’ benefits had until May 5 to register their children. Those who missed the deadline will have to wait until they file their 2020 taxes to receive the extra $500 per child. If you use a Direct Express card, you could have used the Non-Filers tool to register your children but “you cannot receive your and your children’s payment on your Direct Express account,” the IRS said on April 24. “You may only select a bank account for direct deposit or leave bank information blank and receive the money by mail.”

Also be aware that the Treasury Department, not the Social Security Administration or the Department of Veterans Affairs, will be sending the automatic payments recipients.

The IRS app Get My Payment allows people to track the status of their stimulus payment and should now be available for people who receive government benefits. In April, SSI and veteran’s benefits recipients couldn’t use the app because their information hadn’t been loaded into the system yet. But the IRS told TIME on May 13 that their payment status should now be available.

If you don’t receive any of the aforementioned government benefits but also don’t have to file a tax return — a group that includes “low-income workers and [certain] individuals with disabilities,” per the IRS — you’re likely still eligible for a stimulus payment. You’ll just have to input your information into the IRS’s online “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here” portal. There, you’ll have to provide your name, mailing address, email address, date of birth and valid Social Security number. You’ll also have to provide the name and Social Security number for each of your dependents. And if you have them, prepare to provide your Identity Protection Personal Identification Number (IP PIN), a state issued ID and your bank account information. The IRS has a detailed guide on what to expect when you use that portal.

Furthermore, if you belong to a group that has only recently been assured their payments would come automatically — like veteran benefit recipients — and you have already entered your information in the “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info” tool, the IRS said on April 17 that “there will be no interruption to payments being processed using this portal.”

The IRS also recommends you keep an eye out for suspicious emails, calls or texts seeking your personal info during the stimulus rollout. It’s likely that scammers will try to take advantage of confusion around stimulus check delivery to steal people’s personal information.

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Write to Madeleine Carlisle at madeleine.carlisle@time.com